Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Personality structure in bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus).

Morton, F. Blake; Robinson, Lauren M; Brando, Sabrina; Weiss, Alexander


Lauren M Robinson

Sabrina Brando

Alexander Weiss


Comparative studies can help identify selective pressures that contributed to species differences in the number and composition of personality domains. Despite being adapted to an aquatic lifestyle and last sharing a common ancestor with primates some 95 million years ago, bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) resemble nonhuman primate species in several behavioral and cognitive traits. For example, like chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes), dolphins live in fission–fusion societies, use tools, and have relatively large brains. To determine the extent to which these and other factors contribute to the evolution of dolphin personality, we examined personality structure in 134 bottlenose dolphins. Personality was measured in 49 dolphins using a 42-item questionnaire, and in 85 dolphins using a version of the questionnaire that included 7 additional items. We found four domains. Three—Openness, Sociability, and Disagreeableness—resembled personality domains found in nonhuman primates and other species. The fourth, Directedness, was a blend of high Conscientiousness and low Neuroticism and was unique to dolphins. Unlike other species, but like humans, dolphins did not appear to have a strong Dominance domain. The overlap in personality structure between dolphins and other species suggests that selective pressures, such as those related to group structure, terrestrial lifestyles, morphology, and social learning or tool use are not necessary for particular domains to evolve within a species. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved)


Morton, F. B., Robinson, L. M., Brando, S., & Weiss, A. (2021). Personality structure in bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus). Journal of Comparative Psychology, 135(2), 219-231.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Sep 23, 2020
Online Publication Date Jan 18, 2021
Publication Date Jan 18, 2021
Deposit Date Oct 28, 2020
Publicly Available Date Jan 18, 2021
Journal Journal of Comparative Psychology
Print ISSN 1939-2087
Electronic ISSN 0735-7036
Publisher American Psychological Association
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 135
Issue 2
Pages 219-231
Public URL



Copyright Statement
© American Psychological Association 2020

You might also like

Downloadable Citations