A division of labour with role specialization in group–hunting bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) off Cedar Key, Florida

Stefanie K. Gazda, Richard C. Connor, Robert K. Edgar, Frank Cox

Abstract

Individual role specialization during group hunting is extremely rare in mammals. Observations on two groups of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in Cedar Key, Florida revealed distinctive behavioural roles during group feeding. In each group, one individual was consistently the ‘driver’, herding the fishes in a circle toward the remaining ‘barrier’ dolphins. Aerial fish–capture rates differed between groups, as well as between the driver and barrier dolphins, in one group but not in the other. These differences between the two groups may reflect differences in group stability or in prey school size.