14 March, 2011

Sperm Whales give each other names

Subtle variations in sperm-whale calls suggest that individuals announce themselves with discrete personal identifier. To put it another way, they might have names.

The findings are preliminary, based on observations of just three whales, so talk of names is still speculation. But “it’s very suggestive,” said biologist Luke Rendell of Scotland’s University of St. Andrews. “They seem to make that coda in a way that’s individually distinctive.”

Rendell and his collaborators, including biologists Hal Whitehead, Shane Gero and Tyler Schulz, have for years studied the click sequences, or codas, used by sperm whales to communicate across miles of deep ocean. In a study published last June in Marine Mammal Sciences, they described a sound-analysis technique that linked recorded codas to individual members of a whale family living in the Caribbean.


Chez said...

Interesting find! It's really a shame that more isn't known. Whilst it's easily possible that those differences in clicks are indicative of personal riffs or 'names', it could just as easily come down to differences in 'pronunciation' of a group riff. If you recorded five individuals saying "Hello" for instance, you'd have the same issue of a superficially identical vocal pattern, but closer analysis would illustrate that there are subtle differences that would identify each speaker. Exciting nevertheless!

On another matter, just how banal can the comments on Wired get?

Katy Zei, Katherine Zei said...

Lol to your comment about the Wired comments... too true. If you want to read funny/interesting/dumbass comments, go to businessinsider.com.

I like your linguistic analysis Chez, good points! I also liked this article because it is ostensibly "news"... I thought, of course they call each other by name the Whales, there are so few of them, even I would be able to know them all. ;)