Cooperation is the foundation of all forms of life: genes cooperate to build genomes, cells cooperate in organisms, and organisms cooperate in social networks. Yet, the widespread phenomenon of cooperation is not completely understood. This particularly concerns cooperation among unrelated individuals or such in complex societies. Helping to solve the puzzle of cooperation is what motivated me for my PhD thesis.
Male alliances in bottlenose dolphins form one of the most remarkable and complex social system outside humans and provide a rare example of male cooperation. For my PhD I am combining over three decades of detailed behavioural observations and genomic data on the renowned Shark Bay dolphin population. This approach allows me to investigate partner choice and the adaptive benefits of male cooperation in an unprecedented way outside of the primate lineage.