Dolphins who are hand-fed by tourists are less social than their peers

Tourists can hand-feed some dolphins around the coast of Australia, but dolphins fed this way are less likely to form strong social bonds with their peers

Life 20 April 2022

Bottlenose dolphins being fed

Hand-feeding wild bottlenose dolphins can influence the marine mammals’ social behaviour

Shutterstock/Asher Davidson

Dolphins that are free-roaming but are fed by hand become less socially involved with their peers. As a result, their calves may grow up lacking vital social skills – which could explain, at least in part, why they are twice as likely to die before reaching adulthood.

“Dolphins are a very social species that rely on the social group to protect them from predators and for courtship [in breeding situations],” says Valeria Senigaglia at Murdoch University in Perth, Australia. “There’s …

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