Summer is just around the corner, and beachcombers are making their vacation plans to slather on the sunscreen, collect shells along the shore and delight at dolphin sightings on the distant horizon.
I recently read an interesting scientific article about the social networking of these ethereal creatures. It seems they have their own little networking community deep under that deep cerulean sea where males and females court each other and build alliances. Sound familiar? I’m thinking Facebook for Muculent Mammals. I’m also thinking these relationships may be deserving of their own reality show.
One of the reasons for these alliances and friendships among dolphins, scientists say, is that all this socializing sets the stage for their biggest goal: the race to reproduce. Yeah, this is all sounding very familiar.
Let me set the stage for this reality show I’m envisioning based on these scientists’ theories. I can’t help but visualize the set – a big, noisy underwater night club filled with slithery, silver, male dolphins standing around the bar with their bro network as they team up in duos or trios (what scientists call the “first-level alliance”) to support each other as they surround and woo an unsuspecting female. They say this makes it harder for the female dolphin to race away. But as they surround her, I can just imagine one brave bottlenose [reads script] saying, “Hey, baby, nice snout. Wanna go out?” Ew. And with that, she bolts [stage left], leaving him and his useless buddies drowning in her wake.
But, then, the plot thickens. An outsider male – who has had one too many Seaweed Stingers – makes an attempt to steal said female. This, in turn, causes the first group of dolphin dudes to join forces with other groups. (This is known as the “second-level alliance”). I believe in human-speak, this is called “misery loves company.”
Animal behaviorists say a trio of dolphins under attack will seek help from their other buddies. “Hey, Slick, you got my back?” At this point, the second-level alliance will receive help from yet another group of male dolphins, now forming a “third-level” alliance. (Phew! These guys just never give up, do they?) The testosterone level in this watering hole is now at an all-time high.
Scientists say the effort it takes to keep track of these shifting alliances helps explain why dolphins have such large brains. Perhaps this is where humans differ, as the only thing becoming large at this point is a guy’s…um, dorsal fin?
As for the scientific observation of female dolphins, it seems having a strong network of female relatives and friends helps them rear healthy calves. Apparently, dolphin calves survive longer if Mommy Dearest Dolphin has some bffs that have also raised calves. And where’s Daddy Dolphin in all this? [See below] I guess he thinks he’s done his part since he’s already conquered his catch. So the Ya-Ya Sisterhood is now paramount to the success of rearing the cute little dolphinettes. It seems hanging out with the girls is also a protective mechanism, because their young calves can be easy prey for sharks. These mamas may seem sweet and reserved, but mess with their kids and they’ll show you seven kinds of crazy.
This all leads to the male dolphins once again revisiting The Dolphin Den. Off they go again to assemble their multi-layered alliances, check out the pretty new clientele, and see who they can attempt to woo this time. Either that, or they’re just there to watch the latest Porpoise Playoffs.
Stay tuned for season two of this series…