Whales pass on knowledge

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Whales pass on knowledge

Sat, 11/05/2013 - 15:03
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Humpback whales are able to teach each other hunting techniques.

Humpback whale with bubble net

A team of researchers, led by the University of St Andrews, has discovered that a new feeding technique has quickly spread to 40 per cent of a humpback whale population. Humpbacks around the world herd shoals of prey by blowing bubbles underwater to produce 'bubble nets'.

The feeding innovation, called 'lobtail feeding', involves hitting the water with the tail before diving to produce the bubble nets. Lobtail feeding was first observed in 1980, after the stocks of herring, previously the main food for the whales, became depleted.

Cultural transmission
The scientists used a new technique called network-based diffusion analysis to demonstrate that the pattern of spread followed the network of social relationships within the population, showing that the new behaviour had spread through cultural transmission, the same process that underlies the diversity of human culture.