“The sea, the great unifier, is man’s only hope.
Now, as never before, the old phrase
has a literal meaning: we are
all in the same boat.
Jacques Yves Cousteau
Scientists and researchers have known for quite some time that some of the most intelligent animals can be found not on land, but in our oceans.
For example, the sperm whale has the largest brain of any animal on earth, yet it is not considered one of the more intelligent aquatic marine mammals. Orcas and dolphins show strong signs of high intelligence, such as complex play behavior, the ability to learn, the ability to plan and even have regional dialects.
The patterns of clicking vocalisations these aquatic mammals use to communicate vary from clan to clan. Each whale clan, or group consisting of several families, has its own specific accent, or dialect.
A recent study in Canada, has evidence of these mammals capability of cultural learning; more specifically, that the whales learn the clicking patterns from each other, rather than other methods, such as genetic inheritance.
Several methods of evaluating their clicking sounds were examined. In the genetic inheritance method, for instance, whales inherit the ability to know which sounds to produce. Another method tested was individual learning, in which individual whales develop clicking patterns on their own. A third method was pure social learning, in which young whales learn clicking patterns indiscriminately from older whales.
What the study found is that social learning with bias, as opposed to pure social learning, is the most likely way whales learn clicking patterns. This means that the whales are biased towards learning certain clicking patterns, based on specific clicking from whales in their own clans, or the most commonly used. This is similar to how human dialects evolve.
It seems that man is not as unique with his communication skills as was always believed. There are other animals in the world, such as the whale that may have a great deal to teach man about a higher level of language.