The rearing and socialization of Atlantic bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) calves has been suggested to be an exclusively maternal role (Mann & Smuts, 1999).  However, a longitudinal study conducted with a population under managed care at Dolphins Plus, suggests that cohabitation between a paternal male and offspring revealed that males play an active role in the calf’s social development  (Byerly, Richardson, Kuczaj, 2009). Observations were conducted on an adult male and his female calf daily through four developmental stages, over the course of the calf’s first year. During the study, target behaviors noted were: social (i.e. play, foraging), aggressive, and tactile. Although, minimal aggressive behaviors were observed, .1% and significantly less than the other allomothers and mother, most behaviors were nurturing and positive and suggested prosocial behavior. Additionally, the percentage of observations logged with the father was significantly greater than the other two allomothers in the lagoon for the majority of the study. Although additional research is needed, this study highlighted that alloparenting may not be an exclusively female role, but rather has the potential to involve related and possibly unrelated males.


Byerly, H.C., Richardson, J.L., & Kuczaj, S.A. (2009, October). Paternal investment in the care of a dolphin calf. Poster session presented at the Society for Marine Mammalogy, Quebec, Canada.

Mann J., & Smuts B.B. (1999). Behavioral development in wild bottlenose dolphin newborns (Tursiops sp.). Behaviour, 136, 529-566.

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