Wednesday, November 20, 2013

What Cetaceans Can Teach Us About Culture

A bottlenose dolphin mother shares her culture with
her offspring. Image by M. Herko at the National
Undersea Research Program (NURP) available
at Wikimedia Commons.
We often think of culture as being food dishes, music, dance, and clothing that are specific to a group of people. But are we the only species that have culture? What is culture exactly and how does it relate to relationships?

Scientifically, culture is behavior that is socially transmitted between individuals and shared within population groups. Culture fundamentally depends on learning, and specifically learning from others. But everyone doesn't learn equally from everyone else. We tend to pick up behaviors more from individuals that we spend more time with than those that we don't. We also tend to spend more time with individuals that we share behaviors with. And we're not the only ones to show these tendencies.

This week at Accumulating Glitches I talk about various ways whales and dolphins share culture and are influenced by it. Check it out here.

And to learn more, check these out:

Cantor, M., & Whitehead, H. (2013). The interplay between social networks and culture: theoretically and among whales and dolphins Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B (368), 1-8 DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2012.0340

And learn about how orcas share dialects here.

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