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Male dolphins have wingmen to help them attract the ladies, research finds

Rachel Lang

Published 
| Last updated 

Male dolphins have wingmen to help them attract the ladies, research finds

Featured Image Credit: Nature Picture Library / Alamy. Doug Perrine / Alamy.

Barney Stinson has a reputation on television for being the ultimate wingman

Wingmanning is a romantic tactic commonly deployed by men trying to score dates, but a new study has found that our friends under the sea also deploy similar methods in order to woo the ladies.

That's right, the bottlenose dolphin is now the ultimate wingman.

Sorry, Barney.

Credit: Nature Picture Library / Alamy Stock Photo
Credit: Nature Picture Library / Alamy Stock Photo

Researchers have revealed that male bottlenose dolphins actually form the largest and strongest multi-level alliances outside of humans.

The scientists from the University of Bristol studied the marine mammals off the coast of Western Australia.

Allied dolphins form teams and co-operate with each other, which, in turn, gives each male more time to turn their focus to love.

This, of course, has the long-term benefit of improving the chances of little dolphin babies.

Study contributor Simon Allen said they discovered wingmanning is the key to success if male dolphins are choosing a mate.

"[It shows] that the duration over which these teams of male dolphins consort [with] females is dependent upon being well-connected with third-order allies," Dr Allen said.

Credit: imageBROKER / Alamy
Credit: imageBROKER / Alamy

He added that social ties between dolphin alliances also lead to 'long-term benefits for these males'.

Co-author of the study Stephanie King said cooperation and forming tactical partnerships in international trade, war and military, the family unit, or for romance was a behavioural trait that was once largely credited as a 'hallmark' of human evolution.

"Our work highlights that dolphin societies, as well as those of nonhuman primates, are valuable model systems for understanding human social and cognitive evolution," Dr King said.

Cooperation was previously thought to be one of the three characteristics that distinguish humans from our closest relative, the chimpanzee.

The other two behavioural characteristics that separate humans and apes are the evolution of pair bonds and males stepping into parental roles.

Credit:  Michael S. Nolan / Alamy
Credit: Michael S. Nolan / Alamy

Study co-author Richard Connor said that their research has proved that 'alliances can emerge without these [two] features'.

Dr King added that the study has proven that males and females sharing childcare is not essential for team-building out there in Mother Nature.

"Our work highlights that dolphin societies, as well as those of nonhuman primates, are valuable model systems for understanding human social and cognitive evolution," Dr King said.

The study was published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and marked the 40th anniversary of the start of Shark Bay dolphin research in Western Australia.

Topics: Animals, Science, News, Environment

Rachel Lang
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