Dolphin Cognition and Behavior: A Comparative Approach

By Ronald J. Schusterman; Jeanette A. Thomas et al. | Go to book overview

IV
SOCIAL BEHAVIOR AND FORAGING STRATEGIES OF DOLPHINS

Forrest G. Wood

Less than 50 years ago virtually nothing was known about the social and feeding behaviors of dolphins. Their underwater activities were effectively hidden from view, and since scientists had little comprehension of the behavioral attributes and propensities of these small toothed whales. there was neither incentive nor guidance for undertaking field studies that could have been made.

This situation changed rapidly when the first oceanarium, Marine Studios (later renamed Marineland of Florida), opened in 1938. Here, for the first time, scientists, along with the public, could observe bottlenose dolphins at close range and for extended periods from below as well as above the surface. The dolphins proved to be engaging creatures, adaptible, seemingly bright, curious, and playful. Their individual behaviors and social interactions suggested a higher order of mental caliber than had previously been suspected.

The success of Marine Studios led to the appearance of other oceanariums in the 1950s, to the benefit of the increasing number of biologists and psychologists who, on gaining first-hand acquaintance with dolphins, found them to be engrossing subjects for study. Knowledge gained from oceanarium observations has provided the foundation, interest, and incentive for studying free-ranging dolphins.

We now know more about Tursiops, the adaptible bottlenose, than we do about any other species, and the most

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