Do Whales Have Culture? Humpbacks Pass on Behavior
Whales communicate with other humpbacks via social learning, study shows.
The idea of a culture or traditions—behavior shared by an identifiable group and acquired through social learning—in cetaceans, a group including whales and dolphins, has been controversial.
But a new study finds strong evidence that a group of humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) in the Gulf of Maine (map) is sharing a newly observed feeding behavior via their social networks. (See related blog: "Sharks Have Social Networks, Learn From Friends.")
That behavior, called lobtail feeding, was first recorded in one whale in the Gulf of Maine in 1980. Since then, 278 humpback whales—out of about 700 observed individuals that frequent the Stellwagen Bank (map) area—have employed the strategy, according