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Whales and dolphins have almost human behavior

They behave almost like humans: they live in groups, they maintain complex relationships and they talk to each other in different dialects.


The whales, the  dolphins and porpoises talk to each other and even have dialects by region, as happens in human societies. This is one of the conclusions of the study developed by a conglomerate of international universities: the University of Manchester, the University of British Columbia, The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and Stanford University, which related the complexity of culture and behavior of these cetaceans with the size of their brains.

The researchers accumulated a large body of data about the brain size of cetaceans and their social behaviors. In total, they collected information on 90 different species of dolphins, whales and porpoises, discovering incredibly overwhelming evidence that cetaceans have sophisticated social and cooperative behavioral traits, similar to many found in human culture.

It is the first research of its kind that manages to demonstrate that these social and cultural characteristics are related to brain size and brain expansion, also known as encephalization.

Among human-like traits, scientists have identified the following:

– Complex alliance relationships: working together for mutual benefit.
– Social transfer of hunting techniques: teaching to hunt and use tools
– Cooperative Hunting
– Complex conversations, including regional group dialects to “talk” to each other
– Vocal mimics and exclusive ‘whistles’ using a ‘nominal’ Reconnaissance
– Interspecific cooperation with humans and other species
– Allo-parent care: caring for the children who are not theirs
– Social game

“As humans, our ability to interact and cultivate social relationships has allowed us to colonize almost all the ecosystems and the environment of the planet. We also know whales and dolphins. They have exceptionally large, anatomically sophisticated brains and, therefore, have created a similar marine culture. This means that the apparent convolution of brains, social structure and behavioral richness of marine mammals provides a unique and striking parallel to the great brains and hyper-sociality of humans and other primates on earth. Unfortunately, they will never imitate our great metropolis and technologies because they did not evolve with opposable thumbs, “explains Susanne Shult, co-author of the work published by Nature Ecology & Evolution.

The experts used the dataset to test the social brain hypothesis and the cultural brain hypothesis, evolutionary theories originally developed to explain the large brains in primates and terrestrial mammals. They argue that large brains are an evolutionary response to complex, information-rich social environments; however, this is the first time these hypotheses have been applied to “intelligent” marine mammals on such a large scale.

“Cetaceans have many complex social behaviors that are similar to humans and other primates, yet they have brain structures different from us, leading some researchers to argue that whales and dolphins could not achieve greater cognitive and social skills “I think our research shows that this is clearly not the case, but a new question arises: how can very different patterns of brain structure in very different species give rise to very similar cognitive and social behaviors?” Asks Kieran Fox, co-author of the study.


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