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The 7 dialects of Pacific sperm whales would be a sign of the existence of a culture

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The study was published in September (New window) in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Culture, a pillar of the remarkable ecological success of humans, is increasingly recognized as an important force structuring populations of nonhuman animals.can we read in the summary of the study.

This research is the result of the work of 27 scientists from Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and the United States.

Its lead author, Taylor Hersh of Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, notes that she and her colleagues used recordings of 23,429 codas taken from 23 Pacific locations to establish the existence of seven clans of sperm whales each having a unique accent.

Codas are a series of clicks emitted by sperm whales to communicate with each other.

Sample coda provided by study authors

Researchers have established that some of these codas follow unique patterns that serve as markers of group membership.

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The study also shows that the dialect used by these sperm whales is more pronounced when the territories of two clans overlap. This allows sperm whales to clearly distinguish their affiliation, as the researchers explain.

The researchers conclude that these membership markers are the sign of the existence of a culture within the species.

They emphasize in particular remarkable similarities in the distribution of human ethnolinguistic groups and sperm whale clans.

Our study provides quantitative evidence for arbitrary traits, resembling ethnic markers in humans, giving cultural identity to a non-human species. »

A quote from extract of Evidence from sperm whale clans of symbolic marking in non-human cultures
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