Evidence of teaching in atlantic spotted dolphins (Stenella frontalis) by mother dolphins foraging in the presence of their calves

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Teaching is a powerful form of social learning, but there is little systematic evidence that it occurs in species other than humans. Using long-term video archives the foraging behaviors by mother Atlantic spotted dolphins (Stenella frontalis) were observed when their calves were present and when their calves were not present, including in the presence of non-calf conspecifics. The nine mothers we observed chased prey significantly longer and made significantly more referential body-orienting movements in the direction of the prey during foraging events when their calves were present than when their calves were not present, regardless of whether they were foraging alone or with another non-calf dolphin. Although further research into the potential consequences for the naïve calves is still warranted, these data based on the maternal foraging behavior are suggestive of teaching as a social-learning mechanism in nonhuman animals.

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