Migratory convergence facilitates cultural transmission of humpback whale song
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Cultural transmission of behaviour is important in a wide variety of vertebrate taxa from birds to humans. Vocal traditions and vocal learning provide a strong foundation for studying culture and its transmission in both humans and cetaceans. Male humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) perform complex, culturally transmitted song displays that can change both evolutionarily (through accumulations of small changes) or revolutionarily (where a population rapidly adopts a novel song). The degree of coordination and conformity underlying song revolutions makes their study of particular interest. Acoustic contact on migratory routes may provide a mechanism for cultural revolutions of song, yet these areas of contact remain uncertain. Here, we compared songs recorded from the Kermadec Islands, a recently discovered migratory stopover, to multiple South Pacific wintering grounds. Similarities in song themes from the Kermadec Islands and multiple wintering locations (from New Caledonia across to the Cook Islands) suggest a location allowing cultural transmission of song eastward across the South Pacific, active song learning (hybrid songs) and the potential for cultural convergence after acoustic isolation at the wintering grounds. As with the correlations in humans between genes, communication and migration, the migration patterns of humpback whales are written into their songs.
Owen , C , Rendell , L , Constantine , R , Noad , M J , Allen , J , Andrews , O , Garrigue , C , Poole , M M , Donnelly , D , Hauser , N & Garland , E C 2019 , ' Migratory convergence facilitates cultural transmission of humpback whale song ' , Royal Society Open Science , vol. 6 , no. 9 , 190337 . https://doi.org/10.1098/rsos.190337
Royal Society Open Science
Copyright © 2019 The Authors. Published by the Royal Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/, which permits unrestricted use, provided the original author and source are credited.
DescriptionE.C.G. was supported by a Royal Society Newton International Fellowship and a Royal Society University Research Fellowship. L.R. was supported by the MASTS pooling initiative (The Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland) and their support is gratefully acknowledged. MASTS is funded by the Scottish Funding Council (grant reference HR09011) and contributing institutions.