Sperm whales live in clans and each has its own dialect

THE sperm whalesthe most impressive of toothed animals, they are known for their extraordinary social organization. These magnificent marine mammals live in reality clanwith a social structure based on maternal line. Recently, such clans have been found to have evolved different dialects, they help create a kind of own language in their communities. The results of the study were published in the journal Royal Society Open Science.

Sperm whale matrilineal clans consist of approximately one dozens of females and their offspring, who travel together and nurse each other’s puppies. Extensive research has revealed that these social units can extend to even 20,000 members. Within such clans, members interact in solidarity, taking each other for granted take care of each otheractively participates into breeding their offspring and defend themselves from killer whale attacks. Previous studies have already shown that whales communicate through the complex click sequence, known as “codas” in English. However, a recent study found that all individuals belonging to the same clan use a common dialect during their interactions.

The discovery was made by Hal Whitehead, a sperm whale expert from Dalhousie University in Canada, along with his team. Through use special underwater microphonesscientists have devoted many years to the study communication among sperm whales. This in-depth analysis revealed the existence of seven distinct clans sperm whales in the Pacific Ocean with a total population of approx 300,000 individuals.


Each clan is essentially based on females and their young, while men they seem to occupy a peripheral location, serving primarily as a means of reproduction. Male sperm whales actually leave their natal social units during adolescence and head for higher latitudes, away from their mothers and other female relatives who stay in warm waters.

Surprisingly, although all living specimens in the Pacific “speak” the same language, each clan has a unique dialect. The researchers also pointed out that although the territories of different clans may overlap, the whales belonging to them Different clans do not interact with each other between them. The investigation revealed other differences between the clans, beyond linguistic diversity. The data collected indicate differences in method movein search success levels foodin rates reproductionin geographical distribution and organization puppy care.

These variations, similar to different dialects, seem to have come fromsocial learning, representing manifestations of the specific culture of each clan. In this context, culture is defined as a set of information or behaviors acquired through social learning shared among members of a community. All this led researchers to argue that clans should be referred to as real whale nations.

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