Social and genetic interactions drive fitness variation in a free-living dolphin population

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 Nov 16;107(46):19949-54. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1007997107. Epub 2010 Nov 1.


The evolutionary forces that drive fitness variation in species are of considerable interest. Despite this, the relative importance and interactions of genetic and social factors involved in the evolution of fitness traits in wild mammalian populations are largely unknown. To date, a few studies have demonstrated that fitness might be influenced by either social factors or genes in natural populations, but none have explored how the combined effect of social and genetic parameters might interact to influence fitness. Drawing from a long-term study of wild bottlenose dolphins in the eastern gulf of Shark Bay, Western Australia, we present a unique approach to understanding these interactions. Our study shows that female calving success depends on both genetic inheritance and social bonds. Moreover, we demonstrate that interactions between social and genetic factors also influence female fitness. Therefore, our study represents a major methodological advance, and provides critical insights into the interplay of genetic and social parameters of fitness.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Breeding
  • Dolphins / genetics*
  • Female
  • Genetic Fitness*
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Genetics, Population*
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Male
  • Models, Genetic
  • Pedigree
  • Regression Analysis
  • Western Australia