Male dolphins have a best buddy they rely on for years

Male dolphins are the Chandler and Joey of the animal world: Marine mammals hang out with both male and female friends for fun but have a best buddy they rely on for years

  • The study by Florida Atlantic University tracked bottlenose dolphins for 100 days
  • Males have same-sex companions for pro-longed periods – often for life, in fact
  • They still socialise with females occasionally, but rarely for mating purposes 
  • The recently completed data was published in the journal Aquatic Mammals 
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Male dolphins are the Chandler and Joey of the animal world and have a best friend they rely on for years, new research suggests. 

Animal experts tracked a population of bottlenose dolphins for two periods of around 100 days to see how their behaviour changed over time.

They found that male dolphins spend time with same-sex companions for prolonged periods, often for life.

Although they do occasionally socialise with female dolphins without attempting to mate, this is far less common.

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Male dolphins have a relationship that mirrors that of Joey and Chandler from TV friends – loyal and long-term, punctuated with spells of healthy time apart. Animal experts tracked a population of bottlenose dolphins for two periods of around 100 days to see how their behaviour changed over time (file photo)

Experts from the Oceanographic Institute at Florida Atlantic University followed the animals from Florida’s Indian River Lagoon by plane and boat, using radio tags as a way of tracking their movements.  

A total of nine dolphins living off the Florida coast near Orlando were tracked in 2007 and again in 2010 with analysis of the data only recently completed.

They discovered by observing their behaviour that adult male dolphins often pair up to ‘hang out’ together – particularly while foraging. 

Speaking about the finding, study co-author Wendy Noke Durden said: ‘Male bottlenose dolphins have been known to form male-male alliances that last for years.’ 

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In addition to the ‘bromance’  discovery, the researchers also found that dolphins do not go very far and – although sociable – they spend a lot of time on their own, particularly when young. 

The bottlenose group spent 53 per cent of their time travelling but only averaged a 17 mile radius over the 100 days with some individuals going just eight miles.

They spent a further 30 per cent just milling around and 17 per cent foraging for food but juvenile dolphins spent up to 72 per cent of their time alone in the first study, reduced to 36 per cent three years later.


A total of nine dolphins living off the Florida coast near Orlando were tracked in 2007 and again in 2010, using radio tags as a way of tracking their movements. Experts found that that male dolphins spend time with same-sex companions for prolonged periods, often for life (stock image)

This is what researchers call a ‘fission-fusion’ social association where they can adapt to being in a group to being alone to hanging out with just one other member of the group. 

Greg O’Corry-Crowe, who led the research, said: ‘The fact that these dolphins seem to have a lot of alone time adds a new dimension to our understanding of the sociality of the Indian River Lagoon dolphins.

‘It also was fascinating to find that many dolphins have brief encounters with many other dolphins.’ 

The full findings of the study were published in the journal Aquatic Mammals. 

A BRIEF HISTORY OF UKRAINE’S DOLPHIN MILITARY UNIT

A dolphin unit capable of carrying out marine missions was set up by the Soviet Union in Crimea in 1973 at the height of the Cold War.

Out of a specialised training centre at the Black Sea port of Sevastopol, Soviet handlers trained a number of the sea mammals over several decades.

The programme’s military sea mammals were capable of planting bombs on ships, finding underwater mines and could even attack divers with knives and guns strapped to their heads, according to some reports.


A dolphin unit capable of carrying out marine missions was set up by the Soviet Union in Crimea in 1973 at the height of the Cold War. Pictured is a soviet diver with one of the dolphins during training

After the collapse of the USSR the dolphin unit was handed over to Ukraine’s military in the early 90’s.

The programme contuned until 2014 when Russia annexed Crimea and captured the dolphins.

Some believed Moscow was planning to retrain the dolphins as Russian soldiers.

A source told Russian agency RIA Novosti that engineers were ‘developing new aquarium technologies for new programmes to more efficiently use dolphins underwater’.

On May 14, Borys Babin, the Ukrainian government’s representative in Crimea, revealed the dolphins had died in Russia.

He claimed that the military mammals refused to follow orders or eat food provided by the Russians. 

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