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Culture among short-finned pilot whale pods?


Reviewed by Luke Rendell and Hal Whitehead in 2001 (Behavioral and Brain Sciences 24(2): 309-382), vocal traditions have been reported for toothed whale species living in matrilinear family units. These matrilinear social units seem to play an important role in the evolution of cetacean culture. Rendell and Whitehead used an ethnographic approach by analysing own observations on behavioural variation among wild populations of sperm whale as well as those of killer and pilot whales reported by other researchers. Short-finned pilot whales are believed to live in matrilinear kinship groups ( and thus provide the driving factor for the evolution of culture among wild pilot whales. Own research ( showed that calls are the most frequent vocalization type among pilot whale groups and most calls occur repetitively during recording sessions ( Comparisons of call repertoires of pods suggest that short-finned pilot whales supposingly use a repertoire of call vocalizations which is being shared by group members. Specific call types might be attributed to specific groups and are not shared between different groups of the same population. Maybe similar to the vocal dialects among sympatric group of killer whales, call types among short-finned pilot whales are being imitated and learned by newborns within their group.