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Unravelling the function of dolphin leaps using the dusky dolphin (Lagenorhynchus obscurus) as a model species

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The prevalence of leaping across delphinids indicates it has an adaptive benefit. I examined leaping behaviour in dusky dolphins (Lagenorhynchus obscurus) according to signalling, social facilitation, and prey capture hypotheses. I quantified the effect of leaping on group behaviour and fission-fusion and the behavioural context of leaping. I observed dolphins in Admiralty Bay, New Zealand during 171 focal follows totalling 157 h. Data were analysed using generalized estimating equations. Clean leaping had a positive effect on party fission (p<0.01) and foraging behaviour (p<0.001). Coordinated leaping caused a short-term wane in foraging behaviour (p<0.01) and had a positive effect on party fusion (p<0.05). Noisy leaping had a negative effect on perpetuating resting and traveling cessation (both p<0.001). The signalling hypothesis was the most strongly supported. The social facilitation and prey capture hypotheses were moderately supported. Leaping may provide adaptive benefits such as reduced scramble competition, increased foraging efficiency, and social bonding.

Affiliations: 1: aUniversity of Alaska Southeast, 11120 Glacier Highway, Juneau, AK 99801, USA ; 2: bTexas A&M University, 200 Seawolf Parkway, Galveston, TX 77553, USA

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