And, like it or not, it is what has made humans have an overbearing influence on the planet, subjugating it in the process some would say. The thesis of this book is that whales and dolphins show a plethora of behaviours that spread through populations through social learning, that knowledge is passed on from generation to generation, and that evens fads and other short-lived phenomena can be observed.
First off, the ocean forms a habitat where having culture is potentially really useful. By its very nature, it is a world that is highly variable and three-dimensional. This has effects all the way up the food chain, making resources concentrated in local patches, rather than evenly distributed, encouraging cooperation. Second, when cetaceans returned to the sea in their evolutionary history, brought some unique adaptations with them: breathing air allowed them to become large and fast moving in oxygen-scarce waters. Air passages are well suited to producing loud and complex sounds, and the sense of hearing they inherited from their mammal ancestors exploits this.
They arrived in the ocean with large and complex brains that grew even larger. And whale mothers care intensively for a small number of offspring, which is an excellent vehicle for social learning. After setting the stage, the evidence is laid out, most of it from observations in the wild.
Culture, so claim the authors, can be seen in the songs of baleen whales, which are fixed but change over timescales shorter than population turnover can account for, suggesting a role for social learning. In the diversity of dolphin foraging strategies around the globe, such as sponge carrying by Australian dolphins, and dolphin-human fishing cooperatives in Brazil and Burma. In the orcas, which show variation between different groups in vocalisations and foraging tactics.
And in the vocalisations of sperm whales which similarly differ between groups. Finally, experiments on captive dolphins show that they are very adept at imitating both humans and each other, including learning to imitate sounds. There is also limited evidence of orcas and spotted dolphins teaching. Although the observations are undisputed, many scholars question if this is sufficient evidence of culture. The critics have two major bones of contention. First, none of the cetacean behaviour observed in the wild has been experimentally demonstrated to rely on cultural transmission and could have an ecological or genetic component to it.
Make a difference
Following traditional dichotomous hypothesis testing means you would have to rule out genetic and ecological influences, which is hard to do definitively. Hal Whitehead , Luke Rendell. In the songs and bubble feeding of humpback whales; in young killer whales learning to knock a seal from an ice floe in the same way their mother does; and in the use of sea sponges by the dolphins of Shark Bay, Australia, to protect their beaks while foraging for fish, we find clear examples of the transmission of information among cetaceans.
Just as human cultures pass on languages and turns of phrase, tastes in food and in how it is acquired , and modes of dress, could whales and dolphins have developed a culture of their very own? Unequivocally: yes. In The Cultural Lives of Whales and Dolphins , cetacean biologists Hal Whitehead, who has spent much of his life on the ocean trying to understand whales, and Luke Rendell, whose research focuses on the evolution of social learning, open an astounding porthole onto the fascinating culture beneath the waves. As Whitehead and Rendell show, cetacean culture and its transmission are shaped by a blend of adaptations, innate sociality, and the unique environment in which whales and dolphins live: a watery world in which a hundred-and-fifty-ton blue whale can move with utter grace, and where the vertical expanse is as vital, and almost as vast, as the horizontal.
Drawing on their own research as well as a scientific literature as immense as the sea—including evolutionary biology, animal behavior, ecology, anthropology, psychology, and neuroscience—Whitehead and Rendell dive into realms both humbling and enlightening as they seek to define what cetacean culture is, why it exists, and what it means for the future of whales and dolphins. But to our knowledge, wild whales and dolphins do not use syntax, or in a simple way. Click patterns.
Thus whales, dolphins, apes, monkeys, and birds do not have the long narrative stories, lectures about the structure of their worlds, or sets of instructions for doing or making complicated things that our language gives us. Oral histories. Not having language is not necessarily a cognitive deficit especially since dolphins can use syntax when trained by humans. And they can point to things and use sounds to refer to one another. They communicate frequently and enthusiastically. Morality Human infants in some studies begin making judgments about the behavior of others before than can talk.
When killer whales washing seals off ice floe Appear to be altruistic moral acts. When a human protect another, we call it compassion. If a humpback whale does so, why call it instinct? When considering the moral standards of human culture, it seems churlish to deny the cetaceans made conscious decisions to save the other animals. We cannot know the motivations of the animals, but then again, how can we know it for sure of our fellow humans?
Dolphins helping humans in peril. Sperm whales clearly control the strength of their powerful sonar ofr else could permanently damage others at close range, thus suggests learn and share agreements about the right thing to do.
The Cultural Lives of Whales and Dolphins
The final key attribute of human culture affects biological fitness - reproductive success, affects genetic evolution. Shark Bay, Australia study: calves of provisioned dolphins who came to the Monkey Mia resort beach for handouts from humans had over twice the probability of dying in their first year compared to those of nonprovisioned females. Connection between reproductive success and the famous cultural trait of the Shark Bay dolphins, sponging. Females who put sponges on their noses raised calves at higher rates than average dolphin.
Only in the sponging of the bottlenose dolphins is there even potential evidence of material culture, whereas we are physically surrounded by our material culture, and it accumulates spectacularly. There is a similar contrast with syntactical language. But here are indicators of morality and that it affects biological fitness. SHould whale and dolphin culture influence how humans treat them? Does culture have moral worth? But then, when asking Japan to abandon their whale hunting has prompted the defense: like asking Australians and Americans to stop eating meat.
Humans separate life forms in personal and nonpersons, considering needs and vulnerabilities. But arguments about assigning personhood to brain-dead but physiologically living individuals and fetuses lacking aware and sensations. Culture could be regarded as a necessary ingredient of personhood, informing moral debates.
View 2 comments. Mar 09, Nimbid rated it it was amazing.
A very thorough analysis of nonhuman culture sprinkled with lovely and captivating stories about cetacean behavior and cultural patterns!! An absolute delight to read in light of the intricacies of culture in nature -including human culture of course.
- Hakai Magazine?
- Book Review ARTICLE.
- The Sphere and the Hologram: Explanations from the Other Side.
- The options strategist : how to invest and trade equity-related options : effective strategies from basic to advanced options on ETFs and index funds, techniques to protect your investments.
- Hakai Magazine.
Not only was this book very well written and thorough in explaining what we know on this phenomenon, but the authors went the extra mile to expose what we speculate on other phenomena crucial to this topic, like the evolution of culture itself: why A very thorough analysis of nonhuman culture sprinkled with lovely and captivating stories about cetacean behavior and cultural patterns!! Not only was this book very well written and thorough in explaining what we know on this phenomenon, but the authors went the extra mile to expose what we speculate on other phenomena crucial to this topic, like the evolution of culture itself: why, and how would something like culture evolve or the apparition of specific patterns like syntax or vocal learning.
- Andrew Isles Natural History Books?
- NPR Choice page.
- Data Protection Choices.
All in all, a fantastic read for anyone interested not only in Cetaceans, but in the Science of culture. Mar 23, Miguel Vian rated it it was amazing Shelves: antropologia. Jun 04, Behrak rated it liked it Shelves: could-not-finish. Pretty dry, academic and focused on a scientific debate, the importance of which probably escapes most earthlings whether whale and dolphins have "culture".
Couldn't get past chapter 8, still fascinating review of what has happened so far. Aug 26, Stacie Hanson rated it liked it. A little dry and academic but really interesting stories of dolphin and whale intelligence and cultural learning. Great book. Jul 16, Joseph DeSisto rated it it was amazing Shelves: It's rare to find a science book that is both beautifully well-written and deeply rigorous. This book answers the question: Do whales and dolphins have culture? Of course they do! But unlike most popular books about cetaceans, which tend to assume cetaceans have culture simply because they are intelligent, this one delves into the evidence and evaluates it objectively and rigorously.
It's also a lot of fun to read, partly because of all the amazing cetacean behaviors, and partly because the auth It's rare to find a science book that is both beautifully well-written and deeply rigorous. It's also a lot of fun to read, partly because of all the amazing cetacean behaviors, and partly because the authors clearly had fun writing it. Jan 10, Cat rated it really liked it.
Though these scientists are excellent writers truly! This is such a radical premise for some in the scientific community that Whitehead and his partner must both propose and defe Though these scientists are excellent writers truly! Basically, the trade book equivalent of this book for readers like me generally well-educated, very interested in animals, but last took biology in high school would go something like this: 1 Yay, whales have culture!
Humpback whale song! Fishing rituals! Cooperation with humans! Regionally based food preferences that seem otherwise to have no explanations! And ain't echolocation grand? While that is loosely the structure of this book, it was also very in-depth. That being said, I enjoyed reading it and particularly enjoyed some of the things I learned about culturally conservative orcas ha!
- The Bohemian Grove and other retreats;: A study in ruling-class cohesiveness,.
- The Place of Lewis Carroll in Childrens Literature (Childrens Literature and Culture).
- The Cultural Lives of Whales and Dolphins by Hal Whitehead | | Booktopia?
- The Cultural Lives of Whales and Dolphins by Hal Whitehead and Luke Rendell – review | CMS.
Mammalian extended child-feeding years really do produce some incredible complexities and communities. Animal behavior is a tricky enough subject to read about, nevermind animal culture - so much of what's out there is pseudoscience, crystal-jangling frippery, and wishful thinking. This is one of the areas where the appeal of science, the fun of science, is often an obstacle to the actual understanding and apprehension of science: I think most readers just want a nice little bit about a dolphin who's best friends with a seal or a walrus who thinks he's people, a quick little snort of sensawunda, Animal behavior is a tricky enough subject to read about, nevermind animal culture - so much of what's out there is pseudoscience, crystal-jangling frippery, and wishful thinking.
This is one of the areas where the appeal of science, the fun of science, is often an obstacle to the actual understanding and apprehension of science: I think most readers just want a nice little bit about a dolphin who's best friends with a seal or a walrus who thinks he's people, a quick little snort of sensawunda, same as they'd get in science fiction about some rubbery alien. The books that most satisfy them and rise to the top of, say, Amazon's rankings are not necessarily also the books with the best scientific grounding.
Thankfully that is not a problem here. In one of the best books I've read in my marine biology curriculum, various cetacean behaviors are described, along with compelling arguments for considering them as examples of cetacean culture and a thorough address of the counter-arguments.source
The cultural lives of whales and dolphins | Hal Whitehead, Luke Rendell
It is exactly the tonic to all the horseshit I just mentioned. Jun 07, Nikki Balzer rated it it was amazing. Jun 27, Katie rated it liked it Shelves: didn-t-finish. While I didn't quite make it all the way to the end 2 chapters left , the book was very informative and persuasive on the point of whether whales and dolphins have cultures certainly yes with respect to killer whales and bottlenose dolphins, likely yes with respect to humpbacks, and TBD with respect to the rest.
Feb 12, ! Mar 06, Susan Maunz rated it it was amazing. The book goes into the way information moves from animal to animal and gives some amazing details. It also discusses how whales and dolphins can be obviously. This has also been seen in elephants. I will have to share with all my Rookery buddies. View 1 comment. Jan 05, Gary Gress rated it liked it Shelves: science , skimmed-as-reference , human-nature , evo-ai-psych. There's lots of general information about whales and dolphins here, but as a believer I feel the authors are being far too careful in presenting their theory about the animals' culture.
It seems hidden, somewhere in the back pages amongst all that information. Apr 24, Ted rated it it was amazing. Seriously progressive work, incredibly solid yet still playful with exploring what exists in the minds and cultures of cetaceans. Jan 10, Peter rated it it was amazing. Aug 19, Foggygirl rated it really liked it Shelves: owned-read. It makes you think about the other creatures that share the planet with us and their cultures.
Dec 30, Kelsey King rated it it was amazing. Wonderful, informative, and thought provoking. May 08, Mills College Library added it. Oct 09, daniel marked it as to-read Shelves: science. Mar 16, Andrew rated it really liked it. Don't have to agree with the argument to find it a good read. Talia Trujillo rated it really liked it Dec 27,
Related The Cultural Lives of Whales and Dolphins
Copyright 2019 - All Right Reserved