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Sperm Whales Really Do Learn From Each Other

By Brandon Keim

Sperm whales, Earth’s biggest-brained animals, live in far-flung clans with lifestyles so different and vocalizations so complex that it’s natural to think they have culture.

But is that really true? Might sperm whales simply be following genetic instructions? Could their “culture” really be a set of instinctive, mechanical imperatives?

Researchers led by Hal Whitehead of Dalhousie University and Luke Rendell of Scotland’s St. Andrews University, two of the world’s foremost sperm whale biologists, have asked just this question.

Their findings: Yes, sperm whale culture really is culture. And how.

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