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Claim: Whales and dolphins have rich ‘human-like’ cultures and societies

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dolphins diving/lancesagar, Fotolia

From ScienceDaily:

Whales and dolphins (Cetaceans) live in tightly-knit social groups, have complex relationships, talk to each other and even have regional dialects — much like human societies.

A major new study, published today in Nature Ecology & Evolution (Monday 16th October), has linked the complexity of Cetacean culture and behaviour to the size of their brains.

Rich yes, “human-like” no. But the authors know they won’t be challenged by peers wondering where the dolphin universities are. Things get interesting here:

Dr Kieran Fox, a neuroscientist at Stanford University, added: “Cetaceans have many complex social behaviours that are similar to humans and other primates. They, however, have different brain structures from us, leading some researchers to argue that whales and dolphins could not achieve higher cognitive and social skills. I think our research shows that this is clearly not the case. Instead, a new question emerges: How can very diverse patterns of brain structure in very different species nonetheless give rise to highly similar cognitive and social behaviours?” Paper. (public access) – Kieran C. R. Fox, Michael Muthukrishna, Susanne Shultz. The social and cultural roots of whale and dolphin brains. Nature Ecology & Evolution, 2017; DOI: 10.1038/s41559-017-0336-y More.

Indeed. Does intelligence depend on a specific type of brain? Apparently not; some octopuses are pretty smart. But nothing out there is like humans, and failure to accept that fact can lead to some pretty wacky consequences.

See also: Post-modern science 101: How gender theory “harms” pets.

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Does intelligence depend on a specific type of brain?

4 Replies to “Claim: Whales and dolphins have rich ‘human-like’ cultures and societies

  1. 1
    polistra says:

    The development of regional dialects is sort of tautological. Some plants communicate through mycorrhizal ‘wires’. A field in Florida and a field in North Dakota will have different chemical dialects because they have different climates and different predators to discuss.

  2. 2
    News says:

    polistra at 2 and, as for all life forms but humans, it can get very complex but it never gets beyond that.

  3. 3
    Mung says:

    What about the porpoise?

  4. 4
    willspeaks says:

    Culture:
    The arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively.

    Dolphin art and achievement?

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