Successful mothers get help from their friends, dolphin study finds

Female dolphins who have assistance from their friends that are female are far more successful as mothers than those according to a landmark new study.Previous research to reproductive success in animal populations has had findings: several research point to the advantages of inherited traits, while others show the advantages such as using an honorary aunt or uncle or helpers that are unrelated.

The study is the first to look in a wild animal population and has proven that genetic and social effects are both important for breeding.The finding, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was only possible thanks to 25 Decades of field observations by an Global team of behavioural researchers on the dolphin population at Shark Bay, in Western Australia, plus over a decade of genetic samples taken by a team headed by Dr Bill Sherwin of the UNSW School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences and Dr Michael Kruetzen of the University of Zurich.

“Surprisingly, the genetic and social impacts on reproduction have not been analyzed together in natural populations,” states Dr Sherwin. “One of my doctoral students, Celine Frere, who led the latest research, realised that we could do this by utilizing the long term observations concerning which females were associating with each other, and putting that together with what we understood about their genetic relationships.”

Science Daily