Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Cultural hitchhiking: How social behavior can affect genetic makeup in dolphins

Date:
March 18, 2014
Source:
University of New South Wales
Summary:
Researchers studying bottlenose dolphins that use sponges as tools to protect their sensitive beaks has shown that social behavior can shape the genetic makeup of an animal population in the wild. The research on dolphins in Shark Bay in Western Australia is one of the first studies to show this effect -- which is called cultural hitchhiking -- in animals other than people.

Some bottlenose dolphins in Shark Bay in Western Australia put sponges on their rostrums to use as tools to forage. A study of the dolphins has shown social behavior can shape the genetic makeup of this wild animal population.
Credit: Image by Simon Allen

A UNSW-led team of researchers studying bottlenose dolphins that use sponges as tools has shown that social behaviour can shape the genetic makeup of an animal population in the wild.

Some of the dolphins in Shark Bay in Western Australia put conical marine sponges on their rostrums (beaks) when they forage on the sea floor -- a non-genetic skill that calves apparently learn from their mother.

Lead author, Dr Anna Kopps, says sponging dolphins end up with some genetic similarities because the calves also inherit DNA from their mothers. As well, it is likely that sponging dolphins are descendants of a "sponging Eve," a female dolphin that first developed the innovation.

"Our research shows that social learning should be considered as a possible factor that shapes the genetic structure of a wild animal population," says Dr Kopps.

"It is one of the first studies to show this effect -- which is called cultural hitchhiking -- in animals other than people."

The study is published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Dr Kopps and her colleagues identified individual dolphins in western Shark Bay about 850 kilometres north of Perth. They observed them from a boat as they foraged for food, travelled around the bay, rested, and played with other dolphins.

Genetic samples were also taken, and analysed for mitochondrial DNA type, which is only inherited from the mother.

It was found that the dolphins that lived in shallow waters, where sponges do not grow, mainly fell into a genetic group called Haplotype H.

The dolphins living in deep waters, where sponges do grow, were predominantly Haplotype E or Haplotype F.

"This striking geographic distribution of a genetic sequence cannot be explained by chance," says Dr Kopps, who carried out the research while at UNSW and is now at the University of Groningen.

As well, the DNA results from 22 dolphins that both lived in deep water and used sponges as tools showed they were all Haplotype E.

"For humans we have known for a long time that culture is an important factor in shaping our genetics. Now we have shown for the first time that a socially transmitted behaviour like tool use can also lead to different genetic characteristics within a single animal population, depending on which habitat they live in," she says.

The team includes UNSW's Professor Bill Sherwin and researchers from the University of Zurich and Murdoch University.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of New South Wales. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. A. M. Kopps, C. Y. Ackermann, W. B. Sherwin, S. J. Allen, L. Bejder, M. Krutzen. Cultural transmission of tool use combined with habitat specializations leads to fine-scale genetic structure in bottlenose dolphins. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2014; 281 (1782): 20133245 DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2013.3245

Cite This Page:

University of New South Wales. "Cultural hitchhiking: How social behavior can affect genetic makeup in dolphins." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 March 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140318212250.htm>.
University of New South Wales. (2014, March 18). Cultural hitchhiking: How social behavior can affect genetic makeup in dolphins. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140318212250.htm
University of New South Wales. "Cultural hitchhiking: How social behavior can affect genetic makeup in dolphins." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140318212250.htm (accessed August 23, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Endangered Red Wolves Face Uncertain Future

Endangered Red Wolves Face Uncertain Future

AP (Aug. 22, 2014) A federal judge temporarily banned coyote hunting to save endangered red wolves, but local hunters say that the wolf preservation program does more harm than good. Meanwhile federal officials are reviewing its wolf program in North Carolina. (Aug. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Farm Resurgence Grows With Younger Crowd

Farm Resurgence Grows With Younger Crowd

AP (Aug. 22, 2014) New England farms are seeing a surge in younger farm hands as the 'buy local' food movement grows across the country. (Aug. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Drug Used To Treat 'Ebola's Cousin' Shows Promise

Drug Used To Treat 'Ebola's Cousin' Shows Promise

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) An experimental drug used to treat Marburg virus in rhesus monkeys could give new insight into a similar treatment for Ebola. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Terrifying City-Dwelling Spiders Are Bigger And More Fertile

Terrifying City-Dwelling Spiders Are Bigger And More Fertile

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) According to a new study, spiders that live in cities are bigger, fatter and multiply faster. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins