Social behavior in mammals other than humans has always been something that has fascinated not only scientists, but the general population as well. Large mammals known to exhibit similar behaviors to humans have always been popular favorites at zoos and aquariums. One particular favorite is an animal known for its social behavior and intelligence: Tursiops truncates, the bottlenose dolphin (Prevost, 1995). This cetacean has global distribution that spans all tropical and temperate marine waters with bays, sounds, estuaries, and open shorelines being the habitats most frequently inhabited, and sea grass beds being the preferred nursery locations (Prevost, 1995). These mammals are some of the most admired sea creatures and have shown great capacity for intelligence. They are often trained and used in shows at aquariums. Most frequently studied are their communication types and their complex social behavior, with things like verbal and nonverbal communication, communities and social hierarchies, and common social behaviors receiving a particular emphasis.
Physical Attributes and Relevant Zoological Information
Tursiops truncates, with its Atlantic sub-species named T .t. truncates, has some very distinct physical features. The size is a range of six to thirteen feet or two to four meters (Prevost, 1995) (Reynolds & Wells, 2003). The average dolphin is about 9 feet long and usually weighs about 600 pounds, although males are typically 25% larger than females (CITATION). The rostrum extends for several inches, but is relatively short compared to the rest of the torpedo shaped body. (Felhammer, et al. 2003). The rostrum is also the basic for the T. t. truncates common name of “bottlenose” (Felhammer, et al. 2003). The dorsal fin of this marine mammal is located near the midpoint on back. (Felhammer, et al. 2003) Flippers are moderately long and typically convex with rounded points at the tips. (Felhammer, et al. 2003) The flukes of the tail are separated by a distinctive notch that makes the bottlenose dolphin easy to recognize. Atlantic bottlenose dolphins are typically slate to charcoal grey in color and they have subtle, yet complex, patterns of shading near the head (Felhammer, et al. 2003). They also have a dark stripe than spans from the eye to the insertion of the flipper, as well as a well defined bridle (Felhammer, et al. 2003). These physical features make the bottlenose dolphin easy to distinguish, which makes them a good subject for the study of communication and social behavior in cetaceans.
Atlantic bottlenose dolphins also have a unique reproductive strategy. Their reproduction is very important to the study of social behavior because of the complexity of reproduction and calf-rearing. Females have spontaneous ovulation, so they come into heat at varying times throughout the year (Felhammer, et al. 2003). Copulation can be complex, particularly with the courting behaviors that precede it (Felhammer, et al. 2003)....