Studies of the social behavior of Cuvier’s beaked whales (Ziphius cavirostris) are challenging because of their deepwater habitat usually far from shore and the limited time they spend at the surface. The sociality of these deepest diving mammals is of interest, however, especially for our understanding of how social systems evolve in extreme habitats. High levels of scarring suggest that males compete agonistically for access to females and so we predicted that associations among adult males would be unstable due to competitive exclusion. We tested this prediction by evaluating the diving behavior of animals within social groups off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, considering diving synchrony a proxy for group membership. Using data from satellite-linked depth-recording tags, we found that adult male–male pairs showed extended periods of synchrony in diving behavior, while all pairs that included an adult male with an individual of another age and/or sex dove synchronously for less than a day. We assessed three hypotheses to explain these surprising results: sexual segregation; extended bouts of male–male competition; and the presence of male alliances. Finally, we considered testable predictions to distinguish among these explanations.
Cioffi, W. R., N. J. Quick, H. J. Foley, D. M. Waples, Z. T. Swaim, J. M. Shearer, D. L. Webster, A. S. Friedlaender, B. L. Southall, R. W. Baird, D. P. Nowacek, and A. J. Read. 2021. Adult Male Cuvier’s Beaked Whales (Ziphius cavirostris) Engage in Prolonged Bouts of Synchronous Diving. Marine Mammal Science 37(3): 1085-1100. doi: 10.1111/mms.12799