Study finds dolphins make friends through mutual interests, just like us

New research has found that dolphins are more like us than we thought, revealing that the much-loved sea animals make friends based on shared interests.

Undertaken by researchers from the University of Bristol, Zurich and Western Australia, the study took place at Shark Bay, one of Western Australia’s world heritage sites which has a large population of Indo-Pacific bottle nosed dolphins.


A new study conducted in Western Australia has found dolphins are just like us and make friendships based on similar interests.

Researchers observed that animals in the area used marine sponges (plant-like that animals that attach themselves to rocks, shells and the seafloor) as foraging tools to navigate deeper waters and find food. This technique is inter-generational.

After using behavioural, genetic and photographic data from 124 males in the winter months, the researchers identified the ‘spongers’ and ‘non-spongers’. Through this work, a pattern was revealed that the males who used the technique associated closely with other male ‘sponging’ dolphins, despite the practice being a largely solitary activity.

The lead author of the study from the University of Zurich, Manuela Bizzozzero, said:

“Male dolphins in Shark Bay exhibit a fascinating social system of nested alliance formation. These strong bonds between males can last for decades and are critical to each male’s mating success. We were very excited to discover alliances of spongers, dolphins forming close friendships with others with similar traits.”

So there you have it, they’re just like us.