Bottlenose dolphins in Shark Bay show a variety of different foraging techniques, one of which includes the use of a sponge (“sponging”). Sponging seems to be socially learned from mother to calf and female biased. It is thought, that sponging might not be very compatible with male life style in Shark Bay. Males associate in alliances to herd, defend and consort females. To ensure the success of such alliances is time consuming, supposedly leaving little occasion for time intensive foraging tactics like sponging. Still, in Shark Bay, an alliance of mostly sponging males has emerged. In my Master Thesis, I'm interested in the origin, benefits and costs of such a peculiar cooperation, and in how far kin selection and horizontal learning abilities played a role in its formation.
My work will help to elucidate the association patterns in male bottlenose dolphins and if male lifestyle might partially explain the female bias in tool use also found in many other taxa.