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Curr Biol. 2011 Apr 26;21(8):687-91. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2011.03.019. Epub 2011 Apr 14.

Dynamic horizontal cultural transmission of humpback whale song at the ocean basin scale.

Author information

1
The University of Queensland, Cetacean Ecology and Acoustics Lab, School of Veterinary Science, Gatton, QLD 4343, Australia. e.garland@uq.edu.au

Abstract

Cultural transmission, the social learning of information or behaviors from conspecifics, is believed to occur in a number of groups of animals, including primates, cetaceans, and birds. Cultural traits can be passed vertically (from parents to offspring), obliquely (from the previous generation via a nonparent model to younger individuals), or horizontally (between unrelated individuals from similar age classes or within generations). Male humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) have a highly stereotyped, repetitive, and progressively evolving vocal sexual display or "song" that functions in sexual selection (through mate attraction and/or male social sorting). All males within a population conform to the current version of the display (song type), and similarities may exist among the songs of populations within an ocean basin. Here we present a striking pattern of horizontal transmission: multiple song types spread rapidly and repeatedly in a unidirectional manner, like cultural ripples, eastward through the populations in the western and central South Pacific over an 11-year period. This is the first documentation of a repeated, dynamic cultural change occurring across multiple populations at such a large geographic scale.

PMID:
21497089
DOI:
10.1016/j.cub.2011.03.019
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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