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culture has led to the development of complex knowledge and technology, building from generation to generation over time. We now know that whale culture can involve thousands of animals within a cultural group, with traditions spreading over thousands of kilometers and developing over decades or more, increasing in diversity over time. These cultural traditions involve communication, echolocation, and forag- ing behaviors, but we have little evidence for an increase in complexity for the short time periods over which they have been observed. There is little evidence for marine mammal culture involving technology; rather, it is social behaviors that appear to be especially important.
When you listen to sperm whale codas, they are not acousti- cally as striking and complex as killer whale calls or as mu- sical as humpback song (although they certainly are rhyth- mic). But when you think about codas as a cultural tradition, I hope that you agree that a relatively simple acoustic signal can actually represent a complex and fascinating communi- cation tradition.
Marine mammals brought mammalian sound production and hearing capacities to life in the ocean, which enabled them to exploit the favorable physics of sound in the sea. This enabled them to find prey and orient in the dark using echolocation and to communicate over ocean basin scales. Some marine mammals evolved remarkably sophisticated abilities to learn vocalizations, modifying the sounds they produce based on vocalizations they hear from conspecifics. This led to the development of fascinating animal cultures whose complexity we are only just beginning to understand.
Peter Tyack is professor of marine mammal biology at the University of St Andrews, St Andrews, Scotland, UK. He is a behavioral ecologist who stud- ies acoustic communication, vocal pro- duction learning, and social behavior in marine mammals, including reproduc-
tive advertisement in baleen whales, individually distinctive contact calls in delphinids, and echolocation in deep-diving toothed whales. In collaboration with engineer Mark John- son, he has developed sound-and-orientation recording tags. He has developed a series of studies on the responses
of marine mammals to anthropogenic sounds, including the effects of naval sonar and oil exploration on baleen and toothed whales.
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Janik, V. M., and Sayigh, L. S. (2013). Communication in bottlenose dol- phins: 50 years of signature whistle research. Journal of Comparative Physi- ology A 199, 479-489.
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Madsen, P. T., Payne, R., Kristiansen, N. U., Wahlberg, M., Kerr, I., and Møhl, B. (2002). Sperm whale sound production studied with ultrasound time/depth-recording tags. Journal of Experimental Biology 205, 1899- 1906.
Madsen, P. T., Wilson, M., Johnson, M. P., Hanlon, R. T., Bocconcelli, A., Aguilar De Soto, N., and Tyack, P. L. (2007). Clicking for calamari: Toothed whales can echolocate squid Loligo pealeii. Aquatic Biology 1, 141-150.
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