Sept. 19 (UPI) -- Dolphins can solve problems that require coordination, new research showed. The marine mammals can synchronize their actions to accomplish tasks and earn rewards.
Trainers at the Dolphin Research Center in the Florida Keys coached pairs of dolphins to swim to and press a button on the opposite end of a lagoon.
Each dolphin pressed their own button, but the two dolphins only received a reward when they pressed their buttons at the same time.
When the dolphins pressed their buttons simultaneously, a "success" sound was triggered, and the duos received praise and fish from their trainers. When they pressed their buttons at different times, a "failure" sound played and trainers ignored the duo.
The dolphins had to learn on their own to press their buttons at the same time.
Once the dolphins realized their task required cooperation, researchers found the dolphins were able to coordinate their actions with precision. Dolphins released earlier than their partner waited to press their button.
Often, one of the two dolphins came to understand the task before the other.
"In the early phases, we found that many successes were achieved not by the first dolphin waiting, but by the second dolphin swimming extremely fast to catch up," Stephanie King, research fellow at the University of Western Australia, wrote in The Conversation.
Once both dolphins understood the task, they swam at a slower pace, coordinated their actions and pressed their buttons at the same time.
"The timing of their button presses became extremely precise, with the time difference between button presses averaging just 370 milliseconds," King wrote.
Researchers described the dolphins' teamwork in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
Scientists have previously found some dolphins plan coordinated dives before going underwater to hunt. Studies have also shown the marine mammals organize themselves in human-like societies.
The latest findings suggest teamwork comes fairly naturally to dolphins. It's possible their propensity for coordination could be adapted to solve a variety problems in the wild.