LONDON: Dolphins form close friendships based on shared common interests, just like humans do, a study claims.

Shark Bay, a World Heritage area in Western Australia, is home to an iconic population of Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins, and the only place where dolphins have been observed using marine sponges as foraging tools.

This learnt technique, passed down from generation to generation, helps certain dolphins, “spongers”, find food in deeper water channels.

While the tool-using technique is well-studied in female dolphins, the researchers from University of Bristol and University of Zurich study looked specifically at male dolphins.

Using data collected from 124 male dolphins in Shark Bay over nine years (2007 to 2015), the team analysed a subset of 37 male dolphins, comprising 13 spongers and 24 non-spongers. Male spongers spend more time associating with other male spongers than they do non-spongers, these bonds being based on similar foraging techniques and not relatedness or other factors.

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