Whale communcation decoded

A new study reveals massively complex forms of communication between sperm whales.

According to National Geographic, sperm whales in the Galapagos Islands have a very complicated system of communication, even involving different dialects. The language consists of numerous clicking sounds, and is referred to as “click” language.

These clicks are called “codas,” and several groups of females and calves coexist together for years, learning the language from their family and friends just like human beings.

A research team from Canadian Dalhousie University undertook an 18 year research project to understand more about this whale language.

The most distinguishing feature of the sperm whales is their large amounts of grey matter and large noses. They are capable of diving the deepest, and they have the most powerful sonar in nature. As a result of these traits, they are the most communicative whales, using various interactive codes to connect with others of their species.

Mauricio Cantor, of Canada’s Dalhousie University, is also the author of this study. She claimed that , “Our research team spent many years in offshore seas investigating how sperm whales socialize and learn from each other; essentially, if there is culture in the deep ocean.”

Cantor added, “So there is a special structure: the vocal clan, composed of whales with different ‘dialects’. It’s quite rare to find groups of animals of the same species in the same area with unique behaviors. In this case, whales living in the same waters, at the same time, with unique communication signals.”

In this study, researchers collected 20,000 coda samples using underwater microphones and then synced the recordings with real data and computer simulations from the past 30 years.

“That makes them quite similar to us. Learning how to communicate can split individuals into cultural groups. This is not to suggest that whale culture equals the diverse, symbolic and cumulative cultures of humans. But it is still fascinating that a society of completely different animals, living in a completely different environment, can have striking similarities with our own,” said Cantor.

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