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Article

Bottlenose Dolphins Produce Underwater Bubbles Linked to Cognitive Task Engagement but Not Success

1
Faculty of Health Sciences, Bristol Veterinary School, University of Bristol, Bristol BS40 5DU, UK
2
Department of Field Conservation & Science, Bristol Zoological Society, Bristol BS8 3HA, UK
3
Faculty of Life Sciences, School of Psychological Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol BS8 1TU, UK
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Lance Miller
J. Zool. Bot. Gard. 2021, 2(2), 287-299; https://doi.org/10.3390/jzbg2020020
Received: 28 April 2021 / Revised: 20 May 2021 / Accepted: 25 May 2021 / Published: 1 June 2021
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Cetaceans: Conservation, Health, and Welfare)
Captive mammals respond emotionally toward cognitive challenges, but research has precluded marine mammals. A potential indicator of emotion in toothed cetaceans is a large singular bubble (‘burst’) emitted from the blowhole, previously linked to surprise and excitement. Our study analysed bursts from a published study on dolphin cognitive enrichment. Bursts were only produced by task-engaged (72%) or task-spectating (28%) dolphins (n = 6 males in total). Burst frequency increased with the proportion of task engagement and spectator frequency, but not task progress or success (providing no evidence for an instantaneous ‘Eureka moment’). Bursts were reduced in frequency over three weeks, consistent with a decrease in task-engagement. Bursts were significantly more likely to come at the start of a bout of task-engagement than in the middle or end. We suggest bursts were an emotional response signaling dolphins’ instantaneous judgement of the task, more likely related to positive affect (interest, curiosity) than negative affect (frustration). They appear unrelated to respiration. It was unclear whether bursts were produced consciously and had a social function. We call for further dedicated research on the emotional valence of cetacean bursts. This will require simultaneous behavioural and acoustic measurements under different levels of more controlled challenge. View Full-Text
Keywords: affective state; animal cognition; animal welfare; cetacean; cognitive enrichment; emotion; time-series analysis affective state; animal cognition; animal welfare; cetacean; cognitive enrichment; emotion; time-series analysis
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MDPI and ACS Style

Alexander, E.; Abrahams, M.; Clark, F.E. Bottlenose Dolphins Produce Underwater Bubbles Linked to Cognitive Task Engagement but Not Success. J. Zool. Bot. Gard. 2021, 2, 287-299. https://doi.org/10.3390/jzbg2020020

AMA Style

Alexander E, Abrahams M, Clark FE. Bottlenose Dolphins Produce Underwater Bubbles Linked to Cognitive Task Engagement but Not Success. Journal of Zoological and Botanical Gardens. 2021; 2(2):287-299. https://doi.org/10.3390/jzbg2020020

Chicago/Turabian Style

Alexander, Elena, Mark Abrahams, and Fay E. Clark 2021. "Bottlenose Dolphins Produce Underwater Bubbles Linked to Cognitive Task Engagement but Not Success" Journal of Zoological and Botanical Gardens 2, no. 2: 287-299. https://doi.org/10.3390/jzbg2020020

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