Capturing a sperm whale it was much more difficult during the 19th century than even Moby Dick showed it was. That’s because sperm whales only had the best ways to clear the whales ’vessels, they could quickly share this information with other whales as well, according to a study of records whaling.
By analyzing new digital diaries kept with whales while traveling in the North Pacific, the researchers found that hunters’ strike rates had reduced their targets 58% in a few years. And it wasn’t because the whales had gotten worse when they came on the harps – the mammals had learned from the deadly events of their whales with humans, and they were not going to repeat them, the researchers explained.
“First, the whales responded to the new threat to human hunters in the same way as they did the whale. whale killing, who was their only predator at the time, “lead study author Hal Whitehead, a professor of biology at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, told Living Science.”[The sperm whales] they all gathered together on the surface, placed the baby in the middle, and tried to defend themselves by biting or sliding down their tails. But when it comes to looking away from Captain Ahab and that is the worst thing they could do, they made a big target for themselves. “
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The whales seem to have learned from their mistakes, and the ones who survived quickly – instead of resorting to old inventions, the whales wrote in the diaries. them, instead the sperm whales chose new ones, swimming swiftly away from the wind of the whales- power vessels.
These innovative strategies developed by individual whales appear to have spread throughout the whale community, with whales learning ways to get away from each other, the research team found. Soon, even individuals who have not been attacked before have learned to follow their lead.
The whales communicated and learned from each other quickly, and the lessons were soon integrated into their wider culture throughout the region, as the researchers explained in the study. data.
“Each group of whales you meet at sea usually consists of two or three family units, and the units often separate and form other groups,” Whitehead said. “So what we think has happened is that one or two of the units that make up the group may have met people before, and those who didn’t close-up of their friends. “
Sperm whales are excellent intellectual shareholders: Their progressive nature, communication, and the fact that each family unit only lives in larger groups for a few days at a time, means that they can pass on information quickly.
As studies show, that information could be news of new threats, new ways of hunting or the singing of new songs.
One example of the amazing abilities of whales involves lobtail feeding, in which a humpback whale drags its tail hard against the surface of the water, sinking under the sea. to blow irregular bubbles around its prey, and then scoop the prey up in its mouth. Researchers first saw this device used by a single whale in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, in 1980, before it spread across the regional population in just 10 years.
Whale culture also extends much deeper than innovative methods of feeding. “Sperm whales are divided into a noisy cultural climate,” Whitehead said. “They divide themselves into large races, each with distinct patterns of sonar clicks, as a dialect, and form only groups with members of the same race.”
Each whale race has different ways of singing, moving, hunting and looking after their calves. These differences are deep enough to even give some races the survival advantage during El Niño events, according to Whitehead.
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Survival of adversity is a significant feature of whale history, and will only increase as the risks to survival increase. In the 20th century, whales, in particular the 13 species belonging to the category of ‘whales’ – such as blue whales, sperm whales and humpback whales – found themselves chased by steamers and grenade harpers who could not escape. The numbers of these whales fell and they soon became extinct. Now that commercial whales are largely illegal, many large whales have declined, but are still declining with their growing habitats as produce from industrial fishing, sound pollution and climate change.
Whitehead wants to examine in more depth the ways in which different whale cultures are expressed, taking into account the potential benefits of one culture over another in helping a race to be live.
“Just like humans, you would find whales with a more conservative or more innovative culture, and we’re very interested in finding ways to look at those things,” Whitehead said.
The researchers published their findings online on March 17 in the journal Biology Letters.
First published on Living Science.