General, Research, Technology

Whales and dolphins discovered "almost human" culture and society

Whales and dolphins (cetaceans) live in close-knitsocial groups, have complex relationships, talk to each other and even have regional dialects - almost like in human society. A large new study published in Nature Ecology & Evolution linked the complexity of cetacean culture and behavior to the size of their brains.

The study was conducted in collaborationscientists from the University of Manchester, the University of British Columbia, Canada, the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and Stanford University. It was the first of its kind to create a large dataset on brain sizes and social behavior of cetaceans. Scientists have collected information on 90 different species of dolphins, whales and porpoises. They managed to present irrefutable evidence that cetaceans have ingenious social and behavioral traits similar to those found in human culture.

Social and cultural traits are associated with the size and expansion of the brain - also known as encephalization.

A long list of behavioral similarities includes many features found in humans and other primates:

  • complex alliance relations - joint mutually beneficial work
  • social transfer of hunting skills - training in hunting and using tools
  • cooperative hunting
  • complex vocalization, including regional dialects - “conversations” among themselves
  • vocal mimicry and “signature whistles”, unique to individual individuals - the use of “names”
  • interspecific cooperation with people and other species - work with various species
  • caring for other people's children
  • social games

Dr. Susanne Schulz, evolutionary biologistThe Manchester School of Earth and Environmental Sciences says the following: “We humans, our ability for social interaction and the development of relationships have allowed us to colonize almost every ecosystem and environment on the planet. We know that whales and dolphins also have exceptionally large and anatomically perfect brains and, therefore, have created a similar marine culture. ”

“This means that the obvious co-evolution of the brain,The social structure and behavioral wealth of marine mammals provides a unique and striking parallel with the large brains and hypersociality of humans and other primates on land. Unfortunately, they will never be able to repeat our greatest metropolises and technologies, because they have not developed an opposing thumb. ”

Scientists used a dataset to testhypotheses of the social brain (GSM), or intelligence, and the hypothesis of the cultural brain (HCM). GSF and GKM are evolutionary theories originally developed to explain large brains in primates and terrestrial mammals. They claim that big brains have become an evolutionary response to a complex and information-rich environment. However, for the first time, these hypotheses were applied to smart marine mammals on such a large scale.

Dr. Michael Muthukrishna adds: “In the course of this study, we were not just looking for intelligence among dolphins and whales, we were also looking for anthropological consequences. To move towards a generalized theory of human behavior, we need to understand what distinguishes a person from other animals. For this we need a control group. Compared to primates, cetaceans are a bit more “alien” control group. ”

Dr. Kieran Fox, Stanford NeurologistUniversity, adds: “Cetaceans have complex social behavior similar to the behavior of humans and other primates. But they have completely different brain structures, which prompts some researchers to argue that whales and dolphins cannot achieve higher cognitive and social skills. I think our study shows that this is not the case. Another question arises: how can the most different brain structures in different species lead to the appearance of similar cognitive and social behavior? ”