Teamwork: learning from dolphin pods
The seven habits of highly effective dolphins.
According to a excellent site dedicated to Dolphins at Western Illinois University (Illinois) Dolphin social behavior is one of the most complex and advanced in the animal kingdom and offers us a number of insights into effective bioteaming.
Even on a cursory examination it is clear that dolphins embody many of the principles of bioteams:
(for example, see The secret DNA of high-performing virtual teams)
- Living in close knit groups (strong ties and bonding social capital)
Bottle-nose dolphins live in groups called pods. A pod is a coherent long-term social unit.
- Operating in larger communities (weak ties and bridging social capital)
Though dolphins live in small pods, these pods can be quite fluid and several pods may join temporarily (for several minutes or hours) to form larger groups called herds or aggregations.
- Interacting well with other species (symbiosis and competition)
Firstly in a co-operative sense bottle-nose dolphins have been seen in groups of toothed whales such as pilot whales, spinner dolphins, spotted dolphins, and rough-toothed dolphins.
Secondly in a competitive sense dolphins respond to sharks with tolerance, avoidance, and aggression. Sharks and killer whales are their natural enemies and dolphins have often been observed attacking, and even killing, tiger sharks in the wild.
- Looking out for each other (team altruism)
If another bottle-nose dolphin is drowning, other dolphins will come to its aid, supporting it with their bodies so its blowhole is above the water allowing it to breathe.
Large adult males often roam the periphery of a pod, and may afford some protection against predators.
- Operating collective team lookout (team intelligence)
‘Scouting behavior’ has been observed in bottle-nose dolphins where an individual investigates novel objects or unfamiliar territories and "reports" back to the pod.
- Able to act with autonomy as individuals not just group members
Dolphins frequently ride on the bow waves or the stern wakes of boats. This is probably adapted from the natural behavior of riding ocean swells, the wakes of large whales, or a mother dolphin's "slip stream".
Dolphins have been seen jumping as high as 4.9 meters from the surface of the water and landing on their backs or sides.
- Exhibiting self awareness
Experiments have been conducted to see if bottle-nose dolphins are self-aware. In scientific terms, self-awareness is observing an animal's reaction to its mirror image.
The experiments have proven that bottle-nose dolphins are indeed self-aware.
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