[MARMAM] Multilevel animal societies can emerge from cultural transmission

Mauricio Cantor mauricio.cantor at ymail.com
Tue Sep 8 10:52:39 PDT 2015


Dear MARMAMers,

On behalf of my co-authors, I am pleased to share our new findings on sperm
whale societies,  published today.

The article is available open access at:

Cantor M, Shoemaker LG, Cabral R, Flores CO, Varga M, Whitehead H. 2015.
Multilevel animal societies can emerge from cultural transmission. Nature
Communications. 6:8091 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms9091.
<http://www.nature.com/ncomms/2015/150908/ncomms9091/pdf/ncomms9091.pdf>

Abstract

Multilevel societies, containing hierarchically nested social levels, are
remarkable social structures whose origins are unclear. The social
relationships of sperm whales are organized in a multilevel society with an
upper level composed of clans of individuals communicating using similar
patterns of clicks (codas). Using agent-based models informed by an 18-year
empirical study, we show that clans are unlikely products of stochastic
processes (genetic or cultural drift) but likely originate from cultural
transmission via biased social learning of codas. Distinct clusters of
individuals with similar acoustic repertoires, mirroring the empirical
clans, emerge when whales learn preferentially the most common codas
(conformism) from behaviourally similar individuals (homophily). Cultural
transmission seems key in the partitioning of sperm whales into sympatric
clans. These findings suggest that processes similar to those that generate
complex human cultures could not only be at play in non-human societies but
also create multilevel social structures in the wild.


Thank you so much,

Mauricio Cantor

Dalhousie University
whitelab.biology.dal.ca
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