Scientists observe male dolphins giving gifts to potential mates

The University of Western Australia reports that, for the first time, male dolphins have been observed giving gifts to prospective mates.

An international team of scientists witnessed the behavior during a decade-long research initiative conducted from boats and off Australia’s northwest coast. 

According to the university, the initial observation of the behavior involved an Australian humpback dolphin female, her calf, and a male suitor.

He dove to the waters’ bottom, dislodged a marine sponge, then used his snout to nudge the offering in the female’s direction. 

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Dolphins perform during a press visit May 10, 2017 at the Marineland Zoo in Antibes, France. Picture taken May 10, 2017. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard
Animal caretaker Justine, plays with a dolphin during a press visit May 10, 2017 at the Marineland Zoo in Antibes, France. Picture taken May 10, 2017. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard
Animal caretaker Justine, plays with a dolphin during a press May 10, 2017 visit at the Marineland Zoo in Antibes, France. Picture taken May 10, 2017. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard
Dolphins perform during a press visit May 10, 2017 at the Marineland Zoo in Antibes, France. Picture taken May 10, 2017. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard
Jon Kershaw, wildlife manager, is seen during a press visit May 10, 2017 at the Marineland Zoo in Antibes, France. Picture taken May 10, 2017. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard
A dolphin performs during a press visit May 10, 2017 at the Marineland Zoo in Antibes, France. Picture taken May 10, 2017. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard
Dolphins are seen during a press visit May 10, 2017 at the Marineland Zoo in Antibes, France. Picture taken May 10, 2017. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard
A dolphin performs during a press visit May 10, 2017 at the Marineland Zoo in Antibes, France. Picture taken May 10, 2017. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard
A dolphin performs during a press visit May 10, 2017 at the Marineland Zoo in Antibes, France. Picture taken May 10, 2017. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard
The logo of Marineland is seen during a press visit May 10, 2017 at the Marineland Zoo in Antibes, France. Picture taken May 10, 2017. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard
The tail of a dolphin is seen during a press visit May 10, 2017 at the Marineland Zoo in Antibes, France. Picture taken May 10, 2017. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard
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“The use of objects in sexual displays by non-human mammals is rare and the researchers believe it could be a display of the male’s strength and quality as a mating partner,” a university press release notes.

“We were at first perplexed to witness these intriguing behavioral displays by male humpback dolphins, but as we undertook successive field trips over the years, the evidence mounted,” Simon Allen, one of the researchers, commented.

The team plans further research into whether or not such efforts improve chances of mating success. 

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