Sperm Whales Language Indicates They Have A Culture

Posted: Sep 9 2015, 6:45am CDT | by , Updated: Sep 9 2015, 5:48pm CDT, in News | Latest Science News

 
Sperm Whales Language Indicates They have a Culture
Photo Credit: Getty Images

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Different social groups of sperm whales have their dialects and they communicate with each other using their own sequences of noise.

The voices of the whales may sound similar to humans and one may feel there is no subtle difference in the language of various groups of whales.

But a recent study suggests that whales, especially the sperm whales, have local dialects which they learn from the other whales of their clans, just like humans take language clues from their family and friends. And having dialects supports the notion that whales have culture.

Sperm whales use their own sequence of noises during social interactions. The18-year expanded research suggests Sperm whales around the Galapagos Islands communicate with each other using “click” language.

“Our team spent many years in off-shore seas investigating how sperm whales socialize and learn from each other, if there is culture in deep ocean,” said lead author Mauricio Cantor. “Groups of females and calves live together for many years and communicate using a pattern of clicks, called codas. So we generally find mums, aunts, grandmas and friends, all hanging out and chit-chatting for their entire lives.”

The study suggests sperm whales have multilevel social structure where small social groups join and form a large social group.

Two most frequently seen sperm whale clans were using click patterns that were different from each other. In one clan there were regularly spaced clicks while in other clan, they make an extended pause before the last click.

“So there is a special structure: the vocal clan composed of whales with different dialects,” said Cantor. “It’s quite rare to find groups of animals of the same species in the same area with unique behaviors. In this case, whales living in the same waters, at the same time, with unique communication signals.”

The study finds that “Processes similar to those that generate complex human cultures could not only be at play in non-human societies but also create multilevel social structures in the wild.”

The study was published in Journal Nature.

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