Limits...
The ecological conditions that favor tool use and innovation in wild bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops sp.).

Patterson EM, Mann J - PLoS ONE (2011)

Bottom Line: Delphinid echolocation and vision are critical for hunting but less effective on such prey.We suggest that these tools have allowed sponge foraging dolphins to exploit an empty niche inaccessible to their non-tool-using counterparts.Our study identifies the underlying ecological basis of dolphin tool use and strengthens our understanding of the conditions that favor tool use and innovation in the wild.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Biology, Georgetown University, Washington, DC, United States of America. emp46@georgetown.edu

ABSTRACT
Dolphins are well known for their exquisite echolocation abilities, which enable them to detect and discriminate prey species and even locate buried prey. While these skills are widely used during foraging, some dolphins use tools to locate and extract prey. In the only known case of tool use in free-ranging cetaceans, a subset of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops sp.) in Shark Bay, Western Australia habitually employs marine basket sponge tools to locate and ferret prey from the seafloor. While it is clear that sponges protect dolphins' rostra while searching for prey, it is still not known why dolphins probe the substrate at all instead of merely echolocating for buried prey as documented at other sites. By 'sponge foraging' ourselves, we show that these dolphins target prey that both lack swimbladders and burrow in a rubble-littered substrate. Delphinid echolocation and vision are critical for hunting but less effective on such prey. Consequently, if dolphins are to access this burrowing, swimbladderless prey, they must probe the seafloor and in turn benefit from using protective sponges. We suggest that these tools have allowed sponge foraging dolphins to exploit an empty niche inaccessible to their non-tool-using counterparts. Our study identifies the underlying ecological basis of dolphin tool use and strengthens our understanding of the conditions that favor tool use and innovation in the wild.

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Related in: MedlinePlus

Sponging Map.Boat launch site (Monkey Mia), dolphin sponge foraging sightings, transects, and verification dive sites in Shark Bay, Western Australia.
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pone-0022243-g002: Sponging Map.Boat launch site (Monkey Mia), dolphin sponge foraging sightings, transects, and verification dive sites in Shark Bay, Western Australia.

Mentions: Conceived and designed the experiments: EMP. Performed the experiments: EMP JM. Analyzed the data: EMP. Contributed reagents/materials/analysis tools: EMP. Wrote the paper: EMP JM. Collected most of the data on sponging in Figure 2: JM.


The ecological conditions that favor tool use and innovation in wild bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops sp.).

Patterson EM, Mann J - PLoS ONE (2011)

Sponging Map.Boat launch site (Monkey Mia), dolphin sponge foraging sightings, transects, and verification dive sites in Shark Bay, Western Australia.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC3140497&req=5

pone-0022243-g002: Sponging Map.Boat launch site (Monkey Mia), dolphin sponge foraging sightings, transects, and verification dive sites in Shark Bay, Western Australia.
Mentions: Conceived and designed the experiments: EMP. Performed the experiments: EMP JM. Analyzed the data: EMP. Contributed reagents/materials/analysis tools: EMP. Wrote the paper: EMP JM. Collected most of the data on sponging in Figure 2: JM.

Bottom Line: Delphinid echolocation and vision are critical for hunting but less effective on such prey.We suggest that these tools have allowed sponge foraging dolphins to exploit an empty niche inaccessible to their non-tool-using counterparts.Our study identifies the underlying ecological basis of dolphin tool use and strengthens our understanding of the conditions that favor tool use and innovation in the wild.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Biology, Georgetown University, Washington, DC, United States of America. emp46@georgetown.edu

ABSTRACT
Dolphins are well known for their exquisite echolocation abilities, which enable them to detect and discriminate prey species and even locate buried prey. While these skills are widely used during foraging, some dolphins use tools to locate and extract prey. In the only known case of tool use in free-ranging cetaceans, a subset of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops sp.) in Shark Bay, Western Australia habitually employs marine basket sponge tools to locate and ferret prey from the seafloor. While it is clear that sponges protect dolphins' rostra while searching for prey, it is still not known why dolphins probe the substrate at all instead of merely echolocating for buried prey as documented at other sites. By 'sponge foraging' ourselves, we show that these dolphins target prey that both lack swimbladders and burrow in a rubble-littered substrate. Delphinid echolocation and vision are critical for hunting but less effective on such prey. Consequently, if dolphins are to access this burrowing, swimbladderless prey, they must probe the seafloor and in turn benefit from using protective sponges. We suggest that these tools have allowed sponge foraging dolphins to exploit an empty niche inaccessible to their non-tool-using counterparts. Our study identifies the underlying ecological basis of dolphin tool use and strengthens our understanding of the conditions that favor tool use and innovation in the wild.

Show MeSH
Related in: MedlinePlus