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Humpback Whales Pass on “Cultural Traditions”
By Angela Messina, April 30, 2013 @ 07:28 PM (EST)
Source: PopSci

Humpback whales are one of the few animals that demonstrate the ability to learn from their peers, a process that social scientists term “cultural transmission.” New evidence indicates that humpbacks pass on feeding techniques to their young and across generations.

Humpback whales obtain food by blowing bubble nets around fish and lunging through them. But in 1980, a year when food was scarce, scientists observed a single humpback in the Gulf of Maine use its tail in conjunction with this method. Before blowing a bubble net, the whale first smacked the water several times. This behavior, eventually termed “lobtail feeding,” is now used by 40 percent of the humpback whale population.

Researchers using a new social science research technique to determine influence studied how the lobtail feeding technique spread through the whale population. Even taking genetics and normal learning into account, they determined that lobtail feeding is a result of cultural transmission.

Read more here.

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