Many non-human species imitate the behavior of others, and dolphins seem particularly adept at this form of observational learning. Evidence for observational learning in wild dolphins is rare, given the difficulty of observing individual wild animals in sufficient detail to eliminate other possible explanations of purported imitation. Consequently, much of the evidence supporting observational learning in dolphins has involved animals in captive settings. This research suggests that dolphins have an affinity for mimicry, and that they are more successful at observational learning if they choose to imitate another rather than being asked to do so. These results, combined with those obtained from wild dolphins, suggest that imitation may play important roles in the ontogeny of a variety of behaviors, including those involved in communication, foraging, and parenting.
Yeater, D. & Kuczaj, S. (2010). Observational learning in wild and captive dolphins. International Journal of Comparative Psychology 23(3), 379-385.
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