Recognising emotional expressions in captive bottlenose dolphins - Can lay observers agree using Qualitative Behavioural Assessment?

Emma Warner*, Sabrina Brando, F Wemelsfelder

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Abstract

This study applies Qualitative Behavioural Assessment (QBA) to bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus). Ten observers recruited through convenience sampling, who were unfamiliar with bottlenose dolphins or managed care of cetaceans, were instructed to use a Free Choice Profiling methodology to assess 20 video clips showing captive dolphins in a range of environmental and contextual settings. QBA scores were analysed using Generalised Procrustes Analysis, showing a high level of agreement between observers (74.21% P < 0.001) and generating three main consensus dimensions together explaining 61.9% of the variation between observer scoring patterns. Dimension 1 was characterized as ranging from ‘Energetic/Active/Excited’ to ‘Calm/Bored/Sad’, Dimension 2 as ranging from ‘Happy/Playful/Calm’ to ‘Frustrated/Aggressive/Annoyed’, and Dimension 3 from ‘Focused/Engaged/Curious’ to ‘Unwilling/Shy/Nervous’. Dolphin behaviours observed in the QBA clips were scored by the experimenter using an ethogram of 37 behavioural categories, and then correlated with the three consensus dimensions using Spearman’s Rank correlation. Dimension 1 correlated with ‘Porpoising’ (rs = 0.484), ‘Wait Horizontally’ (rs = 0.481) , and ‘Face Object’(rs = -0.469), all at p < 0.05; Dimension 2 with ‘Spy Hop’ (rs = 0.480), ‘Head Following’ (rs = 0.463), ‘Bubbles Single’ (rs = 0.463) ‘Jaw Clap’ (rs = -0.521) and ‘Bubble Stream’(rs = -0.518), all at p < 0.05, and Dimension 3 with ‘Ball Toss’ (rs = 0.621), ’Dynamic Swim’ (rs = -0.632), ‘Avoid Trainer’ (rs = -0.624), at p
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)139-148
JournalJournal of Zoo and Aquarium Research
Volume10
Issue number3
Early online date31 Jul 2022
DOIs
Publication statusFirst published - 31 Jul 2022

Keywords

  • Qualitative Behaviour Assessment
  • Free Choice Profiling
  • Animal welfare assessment
  • Dolphins
  • Zoos
  • Aquariums

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