Skip to main content

Data from: Individual foraging variation drives social organization in bottlenose dolphins

Cite this dataset

Methion, Séverine; Díaz López, Bruno (2019). Data from: Individual foraging variation drives social organization in bottlenose dolphins [Dataset]. Dryad.


Identifying foraging variation within a population and assessing its relationship with social structure is essential to increase knowledge about the evolution of social systems. Here, we investigated individual foraging variation in bottlenose dolphins and its potential influence on their social organization. We used generalized affiliation indices and applied social network analysis to data collected over 4 consecutive years of research in a coastal area subject to significant use and pressure by humans. Our findings revealed variation in foraging behavior among individual bottlenose dolphins, which in turn shapes their social organization. Our results indicated that individuals that frequently foraged within human-altered areas (i.e., shellfish farms) exhibited weaker Strength, Reach, and Affinity compared to others. These bottlenose dolphins profit from a reliable and easily located food source which may increase their energy intake and inter-individual competition. In contrast, individuals that foraged less frequently within the shellfish farms occupied a central position within the network and exhibited strong associations. These individuals may benefit from increased cooperation and reduced intragroup competition, thus increasing learning and information-sharing, as they may face a patchy and irregular distribution of prey. We also demonstrated that bottlenose dolphins preferred to affiliate with other individuals with similar foraging strategies (i.e., homophily), which could promote, through time, a segregation of the population into behaviorally distinct groups. These findings provide valuable insight into the evolution of bottlenose dolphin social systems and their response to human-induced changes in the marine environment.

Usage notes