Molly Gugel

Document Type

Internship Report

Publication Date

Fall 2016


Stereotypical behavior is characterized by repetitive, invariable behavior patterns that serve no obvious function to the organism and can encompass a wide range of behaviors, from vocalizations, to motor activity, and even lack of movement. Stereotypical behavior is commonly considered to be an indication of a lack of adequate care in animals living under human care but can be a result of neurobiological dysfunction as well. In this study, a gross motor stereotype (tail bobbing), exhibited by a female Atlantic bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) named “Hope”, living in managed care was investigated. Daily observations were recorded and analyzed and then compared to the frequency of tail bobbing. Statistical testing was used to compare many of these parameters to the number of tail bouts, including day of the sampling period, time of day, access to conspecific, session scenario, session type, sessions with only conspecific, levels of guest pressure, daily number of feeds, daily number of sessions, daily guest interactions, and daily trainer interaction time. There was a significant difference in the frequency of the stereotypical behavior exhibited by Hope in relation to time of day, session scenario, session type, and guest pressure, leading to the conclusion that these parameters effect the frequency at which Hope exhibits the tail bobbing behavior. The results of this study will be useful to trainers and animal care staff in developing mitigation strategies to reduce the frequency of the stereotypical behavior.


Division: MBE

MPS Track: MMS

Location: Clearwater Marine Aquarium

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