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Senate Leaders Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Save the North Atlantic Right Whale

Senate Leaders Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Save the North Atlantic Right Whale

After a deadly summer for North Atlantic right whales, Senators Booker (D-NJ), Isakson (R-GA) and...
The Summer of Scylla

The Summer of Scylla

You know how every once in awhile, you meet someone and you just click? You...
New beaked whale species discovered in Japan

New beaked whale species discovered in Japan

A new species of beaked whale who lives in the North Pacific has been identified...
Preparations continue for release of beluga whales into sanctuary bay

Preparations continue for release of beluga whales into sanctuary bay

Little Grey and Little White continue to do well and have settled into their temporary...
Southern Resident Orca Scat Project: update from the field

Southern Resident Orca Scat Project: update from the field

Dr. Giles, a scientist with the Orca Scat Project, and CK9 Eba on the scent...
Three Southern Resident orcas declared dead

Three Southern Resident orcas declared dead

The devastating news came late on Tuesday night – three more Southern Resident orcas lost,...
A Beautiful Coincidence: WDC partners with fan club dedicated to BTS RM

A Beautiful Coincidence: WDC partners with fan club dedicated to BTS RM

I’m not sure if I believe in fate or coincidences, but in early April, all...
We <3 Whale Poop: WDC providing support for Orca Scat Project

We <3 Whale Poop: WDC providing support for Orca Scat Project

San Juan Island, Washington. July 22, 2019: Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) is thrilled to...

Guest review of a new book on culture in whales and dolphins

I have pleasure in introducing another guest blog by Icelander and WDC friend, Kris Hjalmarsson, who reviews a brand new book exploring ‘culture’ in whales and dolphins.

As a frequent visitor to the WDC website, I feel fortunate that I have been given this opportunity to post my review of a recently-released book, The Cultural Lives of Whales and Dolphins by Hal Whitehead and Luke Rendell.

Humpie the humpback by Tim Stenton

In this revolutionary book, destined to become a classic, the authors show that ‘culture’ is information that flows between animals; it is socially learned and shared within a community. For example, Rendell and Whitehead give a concise presentation of how a humpback whale song is a form of non-human culture, since a humpback whale learns the song from other humpback whales and passes it on.

Another great example of memory and learned information involves ‘Billie’, a wild bottlenose dolphin that had a three-week encounter with trained, acrobatic dolphins in an Australian aquarium while receiving treatment for an injury. Billie learned how to ‘tail walk’ from these captives while being treated for the injury. When returned to the wild, she began teaching other wild dolphins this new ‘trick’ and, well over twenty years later, this teaching continues to be passed on to other dolphins in that region. Essentially, ‘tail walking’ has become a hit in the wild.  

The book gives readers a captivating insight into the various ways that dolphins communicate with each other using a wide variety of signals, such as doing upside-down lob tails – slamming the top of their flukes onto the surface of the water – which appears to signal the dolphins’ arrival at a particular destination.

Much-deserved credit is given to the painstaking work of Stephanie King and Vincent Janik which demonstrates that dolphins remember, and produce copies of, ‘signature whistles’ of individuals with whom they have strong social bonds. Their research shows how captive dolphins can remember, and strongly react to, the whistles of dolphins they lived with over twenty years earlier and never made contact with since.

This social learning, memory and communication are a clear example of information flow and culture. I encourage you to embark on a fascinating journey of discovery and a beautiful insight into the world of whales and dolphins: without doubt, some of the most intelligent, beautiful and remarkable creatures to inhabit this earth.