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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Play in Wild and Captive Cetaceans


Although play behavior is difficult to define, it has been abundantly documented in the cetaceanliterature. Play behavior is prevalent among the various taxa and is exhibited by individuals of all ageclasses. However, it is often difficult to follow individuals, observe underwater behavior, and obtainmultiple sightings of individuals when investigating free-ranging populations. Captive studies allowfor the systematic manipulation of variables and the collection of detailed data with regard toindividuals, age, and gender by being able to observe behavior both at the surface and underwater.Pooling information from both wild and captive studies of play allows for more robust theories,conclusions and understanding. In this paper, we provide a review of play behavior in both wild andcaptive cetacean populations as a first step toward a more complete understanding of the significanceof cetacean play.

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