Sperm whales inherit language from older members of their clans.
A new study published in the journal of Nature Communications has revealed to us that sperm whales speak in dialects that hint to cultural differences. Scientists have always wondered whether there are cultural boundaries between animal species and the new research is new evidence in this direction.
Sperm whales live in different waters, depending on their gender. Females and calves are usually located in warmer waters, such as, those in the Galapagos Islands, whereas males usually swim in the colder streams of the poles.
Mauricio Cantor, a PhD researcher at the Dalhousie University has closely observed the sperm whale clans in the Galapagos Islands to know more about their speech. He has recorded up to 18 years of underwater conversations and used special computer programs to identify repeated patterns.
Simulations have shown that there were several clicks that constantly repeated themselves between the members of the same clan. The sound of the click did not vary; it was the pauses that exemplars made between clicks that varied. Researchers compared these codas to Morse, particularly because the timing of the clicks is different.
Interestingly enough, these species of sperm whales do not belong to different cultures even though there are no geographical boundaries to delimit them. It appears that sperm whales inherit codas from other members of their same clan. Calves hear their mothers speaking and they intuitively use the same clicks to communicate.
There are approximately 12 clans of species in the waters near the Galapagos Islands. Records have proven that these species communicate among them, but they choose to stick to the codas of their clan. Scientists plan to further study the behavior of sperm whales to understand what strategies they use to preserve their speach and avoid other influences.
Researchers are now considering the factors behind the sperm whales‘ dialects. In their opinion, the variety of codas might stem from genetic differences, mothers-calves inheritance or coda transmission between different clans. These factors have been identified by generating 1,000 possibilities through computer simulations.
In the case of inter-group influences, scientists have noticed that calves prefer new codas that are similar to the ones of their own clan. In addition, they evince a strong preference for the clicks uttered by their family members.
The study of sperm whale dialects will help abolish differences between humans and animals, or at least this is what researchers hope. Hopefully, humans will understand that animals are very similar to us and they will make more efforts to preserve their natural habitat.
Researchers will compare the new findings with the ones from 30 years ago to find out how sperm whales‘ codas evolved over time.
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