The emergence of unshared consensus decisions in bottlenose dolphins

David Lusseau, Larissa Conradt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

82 Citations (Scopus)


Unshared consensus decision-making processes, in which one or a small number of individuals make the decision for the rest of a group, are rarely documented. However, this mechanism can be beneficial for all group members when one individual has greater knowledge about the benefits of the decision than other group members. Such decisions are reached during certain activity shifts within the population of bottlenose dolphins residing in Doubtful Sound, New Zealand. Behavioral signals are performed by one individual and seem to precipitate shifts in the behavior of the entire group: males perform side flops and initiate traveling bouts while females perform upside-down lobtails and terminate traveling bouts. However, these signals are not observed at all activity shifts. We find that, while side flops were performed by males that have greater knowledge than other male group members, this was not the case for females performing upside-down lobtails. The reason for this could have been that a generally high knowledge about the optimal timing of travel terminations rendered it less important which individual female made the decision. © 2009 Springer-Verlag.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1067-1077
Number of pages11
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Issue number7
Early online date4 Apr 2009
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2009


  • behavioral ecology
  • decision-making process
  • Bottlenose dolphin
  • group living
  • doubtful-sound
  • New-Zealand
  • group-size
  • social networks
  • community structure
  • tursiops-truncatus
  • complex networks
  • killer whales
  • animal groups
  • information


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