[MARMAM] Social associations and relatedness in sperm whales

Shane Gero sgero at dal.ca
Fri Aug 8 10:48:56 PDT 2008

Dear Marmamers,


We are pleased to announce the publication of the following article in
Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology:

Shane Gero, Dan Engelhaupt, and Hal Whitehead (2008) Heterogeneous social
associations within a sperm whale, Physeter macrocephalus , unit reflect
pairwise relatedness 


A good description of a social structure in which individuals live in stable
social groups must also capture individual differences in social behaviour
in order to understand the selective pressures behind formation and
maintenance of those groups. Depending on the evolutionary mechanism acting
and the nature of the benefits incurred by individuals, we might expect
different patterns of intra-group associations. Female and immature sperm
whales (Physeter macrocephalus, Linnaeus 1758) live in stable and partially
matrilineal social units. Using photo identification and sloughed skin
sampling for genetic determination of sex and relatedness, we investigated
patterns of association within a social unit of sperm whales from the
eastern Caribbean. Focus was given to how short-term spatio-temporal
associations reflect relatedness among unit members. Contrary to previous
findings, we found that the patterns of association among members of this
unit were heterogeneous and that individuals had preferred associations or
avoidances with specific individuals. Furthermore, these preferred
associations correlate with relatedness between individuals, such that
individuals associated more with their close relatives when variation in
sociability of the individuals is controlled. These results are inconsistent
with the simple equivalence model of homogeneous associations between
members of a social unit. They indicate intra-unit social complexity, a
basis for which seems to be genetic relatedness. 


Subscribers to Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology can download Online Early
copies along with the Electronic Supplementary Material from


Otherwise please contact me for preprints.






Shane Gero, M.Sc.

NSERC Ph.D. Candidate

Honorary Killam Scholar

Whitehead Lab

Biology Dept.

Dalhousie University

Halifax, NS

B3H 4J1 Canada

sgero at dal.ca



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