[MARMAM] new publication on the action imitation capacity in a Beluga whale

José Francisco Zamorano Abramson zabramson at psi.ucm.es
Tue Jun 27 04:48:32 PDT 2017

Dear all list members,

We are happy to announce our recent publication:

*Contextual imitation of intransitive body actions in a Beluga whale
(Delphinapterus leucas): A “do as other does” study *


Cetaceans are remarkable for exhibiting group-specific behavioral
traditions or cultures in several behavioral domains (e.g., calls,
behavioral tactics), and the question of whether they can be acquired
socially, for example through imitative processes, remains open. Here we
used a “Do as other does” paradigm to experimentally study the ability of a
beluga to imitate familiar intransitive (body-oriented) actions
demonstrated by a conspecific. The participant was first trained to copy
three familiar behaviors on command (training phase) and then was tested
for her ability to generalize the learned “Do as the other does” command to
a different set of three familiar behaviors (testing phase). We found that
the beluga (1) was capable of learning the copy command signal “Do
what-the-other-does”; (2) exhibited high matching accuracy for trained
behaviors (mean = 84% of correct performance) after making the first
successful copy on command; (3) copied successfully the new set of three
familiar generali- zation behaviors that were untrained to the copy command
(range of first copy = 12 to 35 tri- als); and (4) deployed a high level of
matching accuracy (mean = 83%) after making the first copy of an untrained
behavior on command. This is the first evidence of contextual imitation of
intransitive (body-oriented) movements in the beluga and adds to the
reported findings on production imitation of sounds in this species and
production imitation of sounds and motor actions in several cetaceans,
especially dolphins and killer whales. Collectively these find- ings
highlight the notion that cetaceans have a natural propensity at skillfully
and proficiently matching the sounds and body movements demonstrated by
conspecifics, a fitness- enhancing propensity in the context of cooperative
hunting and anti-predatory defense tac- tics, and of alliance formation
strategies that have been documented in these species’

A open access PDF may be obtained from


All the best,



Dr. José Fco. Zamorano Abramson.
Investigador del Centro de Estudios Avanzados
Universidad de Playa Ancha
Calle Traslaviña 450, Viña del Mar, Chile
RESEARCHE Id: B-3990-2012

Departamento de Psicobiología
Facultad de Psicología
Universidad Complutense de Madrid
Campus de Somosaguas 28223 Madrid, Spain
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.uvic.ca/pipermail/marmam/attachments/20170627/5ec0366f/attachment.html>

More information about the MARMAM mailing list