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Intelligent Whales Have Their Own Culture

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Whales give each other tips about new fishing techniques.

whales, culture, communicate, tips, share, adapt, fishing, technique

Whales are one the most fascinating and intelligent creatures we know and we certainly want to protect these biggest fishes, or actually mamals, in the sea. But luckily whales are not helpless against the latest ecological changes. A new study found they work together in adapting to their environments, just like us.

For a period of 27 years a team of researchers monitored the fishing habits of a community of American humpback whales. The dimishing of their usual prey in the 1980’s led some of the whales to invent a new hunting technique: first hitting their tail on the water before diving down.

But it weren’t just these few smart ones that benefited from their own innovation. The whales were intelligent enough to also pass it on to the others. In 2007 around 40 percent of the population was using the new fishing skill.

Didn’t all these whales just discover the tail-on-the-water-thing themselves? No, say the researchers. Their analysis revealed that the new behavior spreaded roughly along the lines of social networks. Yes, whales have them too, apparently.

So culture is not something uniquely human. These marine animals, very distinct from our own primate lineage, also are able to transmit knowledge and keep traditions. It’s actually not so surprising if you know that whales also teach each other their mysterious songs. Maybe many years from now we find out that all this time they have been singing about fishing techniques.

Photo: Flickr, Kohane
Source: Science Daily
Allen, J., Weinrich, M., Hoppitt, W., & Rendell, L. (2013). Network-Based Diffusion Analysis Reveals Cultural Transmission of Lobtail Feeding in Humpback Whales Science, 340 (6131), 485-488 DOI: 10.1126/science.1231976

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  • dovhenis

    Seed of
    Human-Chimp Genomes Diversity

    2 Nov,2005 Dov,
    in biologicalEvolution forum.

    Evolution’s Seeds of Diversity, Human and Chimpanzee/Bonobo Genomes.

    Chapter One, In which some wonder what made us human.

    Three recent
    quotations from Science, representative of many other recent similar statements
    in various scientific publications:

    A) “Understanding
    the genetic basis of how genotype generates phenotype will require increasing
    the accuracy and completeness of the currently available chimpanzee genome
    sequence, as well as sequencing other primate genomes.”

    B)”Can we now
    provide a DNA-based answer to the fascinating and fundamental question, “What
    makes us human?” Not at all! Comparison of the human and chimpanzee genomes has
    not yet offered any major insights into the genetic elements that underlie
    bipedal locomotion, big brain, linguistic abilities, elaborated abstract
    thought, or any other unique aspect of the human phenome.”

    C)”What makes us
    human? This question may be answered by comparison of human and chimpanzee
    genomes and phenomes, and ultimately those of other primates. To this end, we
    need to understand how genotype generates phenotype, and how this process is
    influenced by the physical, biological, and cultural environment.”

    Chapter Two, In which is explained plainly and
    succinctly the obvious route by which we evolved, i.e. that genotype has not
    generated phenotype, that we evolved from our genotype via a group of feedback

    From Science, Vol
    308, Issue 5728, 1563-1565 , 10 June 2005, Immunology: Opposites Attract in
    Differentiating T Cells, Mark Bix, Sunhwa Kim,Anjana Rao: “During
    differentiation, precursor cells with progressively narrowed potential give
    rise to progeny cells that adopt one of two (or more) divergent cell fates.
    This choice is influenced by intricate regulatory networks acting at multiple
    levels. Early in differentiation, precursor cells show low-level activation of
    all progeny genetic programs. Bias toward a given lineage comes from
    environmental inputs that activate powerful positive- and negative- feedback
    loops, which work in concert to impose selective gene expression patterns”.

    Chapter Three, In which we explain the revolutionary
    evolved uniqueness of the human ape’s phenotype: The 6My-old revolutionary life
    evolution was initiated by our forefathers who adapted from life in semi- or
    tropical forest circumstances to life on plains. Changes in living posture and
    circumstances led to modified perceptive/adaptive experiences and capabilities.
    Developing employment of tools effected enhanced differentiation of hands from
    legs and enhanced upstanding posturing. As evolving community culture led to
    language communication humans have gradually replaced adaptation to changed
    circumstances with self-evolving cultures/civilizations for control and
    modification of much of their circumstances. This is essentially similar to
    early life’s celling evolution, but with culture functioning for humans for
    change/control of circumstances in lieu of genetic and protein toolings that
    function for the in-cell genomes for adapting their cell’s physiology to
    changing circumstances.

    Chapter Four, In which appears, may be, genetic
    evidence/demonstration of the workings of human cultural evolution.

    (a) From Science,
    2 Sept 2005: “Page’s team compared human and chimp Ys to see whether either
    lineage has lost functional genes since they split. The researchers found that
    the chimp had indeed suffered the slings and arrows of evolutionary fortune. Of
    the 16 functional genes in this part of the human Y, chimps had lost the
    function of five due to mutations. In contrast, humans had all 11 functional
    genes also seen on the chimp Y. “The human Y chromosome hasn’t lost a gene in 6
    million years,” says Page. “It seems like the demise of the hypothesis of the
    demise of the Y,” says geneticist Andrew Clark of Cornell University in Ithaca,
    New York.”

    (b) But look at
    this: From Science, Vol 309, 16 Sept 2005, Evolving Sequence and Expression:”An
    analysis of the evolution of both gene sequences and expression patterns in
    humans and chimpanzees…shows that…surprisingly, genes expressed in the brain
    have changed more on the human lineage than on the chimpanzee lineage, not only
    in terms of gene expression but also in terms of amino acid sequences”.


    Chapter Five and conclusion,

    In which I
    suggest that detailed study of other creatures that, like humans, underwent
    radical change of living circumstances, for example ocean-dwelling mammals,
    might bring to light unique evolutionary processes and features of evolutionary
    implications similar to those of humans.


    Dov Henis

    (comments from
    22nd century)

    Earth life
    genesis from aromaticity-H bonding


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