Sperm whales learn local dialects

Groups of sperm whales communicate using a system of “clicks,” and the sounds, like human language, can have identifying dialects. Now, scientists have discovered that the creatures obtain their dialects by copying the sounds of other local whales, like children learning to speak with the same accent as their parents, BBC News reports. The researchers used a computer model to show that the different dialects observed in nature could only have emerged if the whales were learning from each other, not as a result of being separated geographically or the genetic inheritance of call structures. Their findings suggest that the processes that underpin the formation of human cultures may also be at play in complex animal societies, the scientists say in research published in Nature Communications.

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