Dolphin Society Investigated in Major Study

The most comprehensive study yet of dolphin society has drawn headlines around the world because it reports on homosexual behavior.

But that behavior has been known about for many years (and has been recorded in 1,500 other species) and the study is more remarkable in uncovering an “unprecedented open society.”

The study of more than 120 adult male bottlenose dolphins in Shark Bay, Western Australia, is published in Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. The dolphins were all tagged and given names, such as ‘Captain Hook’ and ‘Flat Fin’ based on the shape of their fins.

It found an open society without defended boundaries, unlike with other mammals. The dolphins had intense social lives, full of “constant drama.”

The dolphins were found to engage in extensive bisexuality, combined with periods of exclusive homosexuality. Male pairs, or even trios, cooperated to sequester and herd individual females during the mating season.

Most males are also members of second order alliances consisting of 4 to 14 males. Such relationships appear to be long lasting, with one known 7-member group still intact after 17 years.

Study co-author Richard Connor told Discovery News that while dolphins can be aggressive, they found a “make love not war” lifestyle.

“We have seen precious little aggression between females,” Connor said. “It does occur and is probably less frequent and more subtle.”

As for males, even though “they are capable of serious aggression,” he said, “they don’t squabble constantly.”

This open but complex social structure was described by researchers as similar to that of human males.

“I have often thought, as I watched their complicated alliance relationships, that their social lives would be mentally and physically exhausting, and I’m glad I’m not a dolphin,” Connor said.

He speculated that certain shared circumstances among the “big three” animals (dolphins/sperm whales, humans and elephants) favor alliances, which could have driven big brains, social cognition and more.

Watch Animal Planet report on the dolphins of Shark Bay:

Related stories:

Victory! Captive Dolphins Banned in Switzerland

Dolphins Exposed to Oil Seriously Ill

Save Dolphins From Fishing Nets

Picture by That Dam Kat


William C
William C19 days ago

Thank you.

W. C
W. C21 days ago


Duane B.
.4 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson5 years ago

why do humans seem to think we are the only ones with a culture and a society?

Ms. JL M5 years ago

Michele J, you are an uneducated moron!

Teddie S.
Teddie S5 years ago

I would think this study would help prove that animals and people as well are born to be homosexual, and is definitely not a learned behavior.
I've often wondered about my dog Shera, she has always shown an interest in other female dogs and even when in heat, would never let a male approach her.
I watched the whole series on the Dolphins of Shark Bay, it had nothing to do with homosexuality, but followed a pregnant dolphin, named Puck. It was exciting when her baby Samoo, was finally born, and to be able to see him grow and survive the summer of sharks. Thank you so much for the incredible filming.
I learned so much from this film, I had no idea that there were hydro-planing dolphins, and that they were only done by the females.
Thank you so much for sharing.
Guess I better go back and look for the correct video.

Debbie L.
Debbie Lim5 years ago

Interesting, thanks for sharing :)

Judith Howard
Judith Howard5 years ago

Hoping that this pristine environment isn't destroyed. I happened to see the full length documentary on this dolphin family and it was excellent.

Michele J.
Michele Jones5 years ago

Um, humans are a step above animals because we were given a soul and a conscience.

Sorry, but you're gonna have to find another way to attempt to put a righteous spin on your gay lifestyle -- comparing humans to animals won't do it (although you acting like an animal would explain your choice of baby, you aren't born that way).

Vicky Pitchford
Vicky P5 years ago