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Dolphins ‘form friendships based on shared interests’
An international research team studied 124 male dolphins at Shark Bay. (Stock photo)
Study finds similarities in human and dolphin friendships 

New research suggests dolphins form friendships based on shared interests, in a similar way to humans.

An international research team studied 124 male dolphins at Shark Bay, a World Heritage area in Western Australia, which is home to an iconic population of Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins.

Shark Bay is the only place where dolphins have been observed using marine sponges as foraging tools, a learnt technique passed down from one generation to the next. It allows certain dolphins, known as ‘spongers’, to find food in deeper water channels.

Using behavioural, genetic and photographic data collected during the winter months over a nine-year period (2007-2015), the team analysed a sub-set of 37 male dolphins, comprising 13 spongers and 24 non-spongers.

They found that male spongers spent more time associating with other male spongers than non-spongers. These bonds were based on similar foraging techniques, not relatedness or other factors.

Co-author Dr Simon Allen, of the University of Bristol, said: "Foraging with a sponge is a time-consuming and largely solitary activity so it was long thought incompatible with the needs of male dolphins in Shark Bay – to invest time in forming close alliances with other males.

“This study suggests that, like their female counterparts and indeed like humans, male dolphins form social bonds based on shared interests.”

Manuela Bizzozzero, lead author of the study at the University of Zurich, added: "Male dolphins in Shark Bay exhibit a fascinating social system of nested alliance formation. These strong bonds between males can last for decades and are critical to each male’s mating success.

“We were very excited to discover alliances of spongers, dolphins forming close friendships with others with similar traits."

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AWF Student Grant open for submissions

News Story 1
 Applications are open for the Animal Welfare Foundation (AWF) Student Grant Scheme for innovative research projects designed to impact animal welfare.

Undergraduate and postgraduate students of veterinary science, veterinary nursing, agriculture studies and animal welfare are invited to submit their proposals to undertake research projects next year.

Grants are decided based on the project’s innovation, relevance to topical animal welfare issues and ability to contribute towards raising animal welfare standards. For more information visit animalwelfarefoundation.org.uk.  

Click here for more...
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In a new animated film, the celebrities raise awareness by showing the solidarity of the UK's own working animals on strike. A sniffer dog (Brian Blessed), police horse (Peter Egan) and sheepdog (Deborah Meaden) are shown ignoring their duties and protesting in solidarity with animals in developing countries.

SPANA chef executive Geoffrey Dennis said: "We are so grateful to Deborah, Peter and Brian for lending their voices to our new film, and for speaking up for millions of working animals overseas. SPANA believes that a life of work should not mean a life of suffering, and it is only thanks to people’s generosity and support that we can continue our vital work improving the lives of these animals."