Whales and dolphins (cetaceans) live in close-knit social groups, have complex relationships, talk to each other, and even have regional dialects, just like human societies. A new study, published in Nature Ecology & Evolution on October 16, 2017, has linked the complexity of cetacean culture and behavior with the size of their brains. [Mks_pullquote align = ”right” width = ”300 ″ size = ”20 ″ bg_color =” # ccb5e2 ″ txt_color = ”# 000000 ″] They work together, talk to each other, and use tools. A new study links the complexity of cetacean culture and behavior to the size of their brains. [/ Mks_pullquote]
The study created a large dataset of information on brain size and social behaviors for 90 different species of dolphins, whales, and porpoises. He found overwhelming evidence that animals have sophisticated social and cooperative behavioral traits, similar to many found in human culture.
According to the study, these social and cultural characteristics are related to brain size and brain expansion, known as encephalization, defined as the amount of brain mass related to the total body mass of an animal.
The long list of behavioral traits that dolphins and whales share with humans and other primates includes:
- Work together for mutual benefit
- Teach others how to hunt and cooperative hunting
- Use tools
- Complex vocalizations - "talk" to each other - including dialects of regional groups
- Own whistles that are exclusive to each individual
- Name recognition
- Interspecific cooperation (working with humans and other species)
- Adult animals who take care of children who are not theirs
- Social game
Dolphins socialize and play in groups, just like humans.
Susanne Shultz is an evolutionary biologist at the Manchester School of Earth and Environmental Sciences. She said in a statement:
As humans, our ability to socially interact and cultivate relationships has allowed us to colonize almost every ecosystem and environment on the planet. We know that whales and dolphins also have exceptionally large and anatomically sophisticated brains and thus have created a similar marine culture… Unfortunately, they will never imitate our great metropolises and technologies because they did not develop opposable thumbs.
The researchers argue that large brains are an evolutionary response to complex and information-rich social environments. However, this is the first time that these hypotheses have been applied to "intelligent" marine mammals on a large scale.
Michael Muthukrishna is an economic psychologist at the London School of Economics and a co-author of the study. Muthukrishna told The Guardian:
There is definitely a danger in comparing other animals to humans, especially with the available data. But what we can say for sure is that this cultural brain hypothesis that we tested is present in primates and cetaceans.
Big brains but no hands: why dolphins will never build complex technology
Bottom line: according to a new study, whales and dolphins have rich cultures and societies just like "humans", thanks to their large brains.
By Eleanor Imster
Read more at University of Manchester