Whales have dialects like humans

Researchers have recently confirmed their long-time theories that sperm whales really do have multiple dialects, just as humans.

Whale researchers and enthusiasts have always been aware that the loud clicking sounds made by whales was for purposes of communication with other whales. But recent research has taken that study a step further by identifying that sperm whales at different locations around the world communicated using different variations of the clicking sounds. They have noted them to be similar to the human dialects found throughout the globe, according to Newsweek.

In a study, researchers followed groups of the marine mammal over two four-week trips between 1985 and 2003. During the tracking they recorded both images as well as sound. The study was published in the journal Nature Communications and suggests that dialects came about as a result of cultural learning similar to that of the process humans undergo.

Researchers though were still puzzled on how given the lack of physical barriers in the ocean that the different groups formed separate cultures and dialects.

“Providing evidence that the processes generating the complex and diverse cultures in human populations could also be at play in non-human societies is a crucial step towards evaluating the contrasts and convergences between human and non-human cultures,” researchers wrote.

The loudest noise produced by any animal comes from the clicking sounds of a sperm whale. The clicking patterns that they emit are similar to that of Morse code. But researchers found that the cadence of the sounds they make are not inherent to the mammals, but a learned way of communicating from other peers and family members. The researchers called them click dialects.

The research and discoveries made thus far are not a surprise and certainly not the last piece of evidence that will surface proving that animals indeed do have culture. Andy Whiten and the colleagues from a late 1990’s study that said chimpanzees engaged in many activities differently within separate groups suggested that these activities were a learned behavior, concluding that they formed their own different cultures.

In more recent studies, there have been “cultural” references in other animals such as killer whales who have their own dialects as well that they learn from one another as well as humpbacks who learn unique feeding behaviors from each other.



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