[MARMAM] New publication: Cultural turnover among Galápagos sperm whales

Luke Rendell ler4 at st-andrews.ac.uk
Mon Oct 24 10:05:16 PDT 2016

Dear colleagues,

This open access publication on sperm whale vocal clans in the eastern Tropical Pacific has been published online:

Cultural turnover among Galápagos sperm whales
Mauricio Cantor, Hal Whitehead, Shane Gero and Luke Rendell 

While populations may wax and wane, it is rare for an entire population to be replaced by a completely different set of individuals. We document the large-scale relocation of cultural groups of sperm whale off the Galápagos Islands, in which two sympatric vocal clans were entirely replaced by two different ones. Between 1985 and 1999, whales from two clans (called Regular and Plus-One) defined by cultural dialects in coda vocalizations were repeatedly photo-identified off Galápagos. Their occurrence in the area declined through the 1990s; by 2000, none remained. We reassessed Galápagos sperm whales in 2013–2014, identifying 463 new females. However, re-sighting rates were low, with no matches with the Galápagos 1985–1999 population, suggesting an eastward shift to coastal areas. Their vocal repertoires matched those of two other clans (called Short and Four-Plus) found across the Pacific but previously rare or absent around Galápagos. The mechanisms behind this cultural turnover may include large-scale environmental regime shifts favouring clan-specific foraging strategies, and a response to heavy whaling in the region involving redistribution of surviving whales into high- quality habitats. The fall and rise of sperm whale cultures off Galápagos reflect the structuring of the Pacific population into large, enduring clans with dynamic ranges. Long-lasting clan membership illustrates how culture can be bound up in the structure and dynamics of animal populations and so how tracking cultural traits can reveal large-scale population shifts. 

The full paper is available for download at: http://rsos.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/3/10/160615
Electronic supplementary material can be found at: https://figshare.com/collections/Supplementary_material_from_Cultural_turnover_among_Gal_pagos_sperm_whales_/3500418

Best wishes,


Dr. Luke Rendell
MASTS (masts.ac.uk) Reader in Biology
Tel: (44)(0)1334 463499
E-mail: ler4 at st-andrews.ac.uk
WWW: http://bio.st-andrews.ac.uk/staff/ler4.htm
School of Biology, University of St. Andrews
Sir Harold Mitchell Building,
St. Andrews, Fife
KY16 9TH

The University of St Andrews is a charity registered in Scotland (SC013532)

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