This Sperm Whale Relocation Is Further Evidence They Have a ‘Culture‘

Sperm whale research off Dominica. Image: The Dominica Sperm Whale Project
Sperm whale research off Dominica. Image: The Dominica Sperm Whale Project
Do sperm whales have a “culture” of their own? Shane Gero, a Canadian marine biologist based at Aarhus University’s Marine Bioacoustics Lab in Denmark, thinks so. He’s spent over a decade following the same individual whales around the Caribbean island of Dominica, and has found that sperm whales have a set of traditions, including dialects, that vary among their clans.


These „vocal clans“ are defined by the codas (or recognizable patterns of clicks) they emit to communicate with one another. Each clan performs its codas somewhat differently, and is socially segregated from the others, he said.

A new paper from Gero and co-authors seems to give further heft to the argument that sperm whales have a culture—even a “civilization,” as he has called it—of their own. The researchers traced how two “cultural groups” of sperm whales near the Galápagos Islands relocated, and two completely new whale clans later moved in.

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