Ginger Chan writes for Epoch Times about research on whales conducted in the waters around Dominica.
Specific patterns of clicking sounds that sperm whales make may enable others in their clan to distinguish them individually, according to a recent article in the journal Animal Behaviour.
Sperm whales produce a series of clicks known as codas to communicate when diving. Previous studies suggest that different groups of sperm whales have distinct repertoires of codas. In essence, there are “coda dialects” that help distinguish one clan of sperm whales from another.
Researchers from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland and Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia observed and recorded the sounds of a group of seven sperm whales on the coast of Dominica in the Caribbean.
They discovered that the time delay between the clicks in a specific coda, called the “5 Regular coda type” (5Reg), varied significantly enough between individuals to be able to distinguish the individual whales.
Other coda types, while having detectable differences between individuals seemed more random, being “more consistent with a stochastic idiosyncrasy,” reads the article.
“Our results suggest that 5Reg codas could be used for encoding individual identity, which would also help explain both its ubiquity and its frequent occurrence at the start of exchanges,” the authors wrote.
Sperm whales, particularly the females and their immature offspring, travel as social units that are stable over decades. Individuals within each group also have specific relationships, leading biologists to hypothesize that whales have mechanisms of distinguishing each another via their vocalizations.
Vocalizations in general are important to the survival of whales, and biologists are concerned about the effects of human noise pollution such as military sonar and shipping traffic sounds.
“No one wants to live in a rock concert,” said Shane Gero, co-author and Dalhousie graduate student, in a press release.
Gero is also studying how calves learn their dialect, beginning with babbling which is refined over time into a diverse array of family calls.
He thinks an improved understanding of whale social behavior could be gained from following the same family groups to aid the species’ survival.
According to the press release, Gero “feels a responsibility to speak on [the whales’] behalf” and hopes to move toward conservation, while continuing to work in the field of biology.
For the original report go to http://www.theepochtimes.com/n2/science/sperm-whales-communicate-via-clique-clicks-56225.html