Cloth $35.00 ISBN: 9780226895314 Published December 2014
E-book $21.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226187426 Published December 2014

The Cultural Lives of Whales and Dolphins

Hal Whitehead and Luke Rendell

Hal Whitehead and Luke Rendell

408 pages | 15 color plates, 7 halftones, 4 line drawings, 5 tables | 6 x 9 | © 2014
Cloth $35.00 ISBN: 9780226895314 Published December 2014
E-book $21.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226187426 Published December 2014
In the songs and bubble feeding of humpback whales; in young killer whales learning to knock a seal from an ice floe in the same way their mother does; and in the use of sea sponges by the dolphins of Shark Bay, Australia, to protect their beaks while foraging for fish, we find clear examples of the transmission of information among cetaceans. Just as human cultures pass on languages and turns of phrase, tastes in food (and in how it is acquired), and modes of dress, could whales and dolphins have developed a culture of their very own?

Unequivocally: yes. In The Cultural Lives of Whales and Dolphins, cetacean biologists Hal Whitehead, who has spent much of his life on the ocean trying to understand whales, and Luke Rendell, whose research focuses on the evolution of social learning, open an astounding porthole onto the fascinating culture beneath the waves. As Whitehead and Rendell show, cetacean culture and its transmission are shaped by a blend of adaptations, innate sociality, and the unique environment in which whales and dolphins live: a watery world in which a hundred-and-fifty-ton blue whale can move with utter grace, and where the vertical expanse is as vital, and almost as vast, as the horizontal.

Drawing on their own research as well as a scientific literature as immense as the sea—including evolutionary biology, animal behavior, ecology, anthropology, psychology, and neuroscience—Whitehead and Rendell dive into realms both humbling and enlightening as they seek to define what cetacean culture is, why it exists, and what it means for the future of whales and dolphins. And, ultimately, what it means for our future, as well.
Philip Hoare | author of "The Whale" and "The Sea Inside"
“In every generation, there are some scientists who transcend the strictures of their disciplines, who decline to be confined by ordinary thinking. Whitehead and Rendell are two such people, for our own time. Perhaps it is something to do with the enigmatic beauty of the animals they study. Or perhaps their own brains are better evolved than the rest of ours. Whatever the reason, this book is an astonishing, unconstrained exploration of the nature and practice of cetacean culture. Placing it side by side with human culture, the authors show that the expression of ideas is not limited to humans or primates. Exciting, witty, with its finger—or should that be flipper?—ever on the pulse, wearing its profundity with a wonderful lightness of touch, The Cultural Lives of Whales and Dolphins is a revolutionary book. Transcending the notion of a ‘science’ book, it contains explosive new concepts for our understanding not only of whales, our watery cousins, but of our own selves, too.”
Charles “Flip” Nicklin | photographer and author of "Among Giants: A Life with Whales"
“Whitehead and Rendell tie together decades of research and observations of cetacean behavior, add in other compelling examples of culture in animals, and relate this to what we think of as culture. This work is unique, and I plan to quote parts of it for years to come. For anyone with an interest in how whales and dolphins live their lives, this is a must read.”
Philippa Brakes, Whale and Dolphin Conservation | WHALE&DOLPHIN
“An amazing book. . . . Outstanding, not just because it regales the reader with the many insights the pair have gained from their decades of research, patiently watching whale behavior, but also because it challenges us to consider those ever-present cultural forces that shape us all into modern human beings, similar and unique as we all are.”
Philippa Brakes, Whale and Dolphin Conservation | Huffington Post UK
“There are few environments that are more hostile and present more of a challenge to mammals than the ocean. This is precisely why, Whitehead and Rendell argue in their new book The Cultural Lives of Whales and Dolphins, just like us, knowledge is also a vital currency for these marine mammals. . . . At times it is a humorous journey through aspects of human behaviour and ‘decision making,’ resulting as it does from cultural pressures. But this apparent irreverence is not without deeper meaning and strong intent. . . . They provide some sobering insights into those ubiquitous cultural forces that shape us all into modern human beings and at times can leave you reeling with questions about your own free will. This is an exceptional book; it will no doubt irritate some anthropologist who believe that culture is the domain of humans alone; it may even rile some theologians; but far, far more importantly it will help to bridge the gap between humans and other species, speaking as it does to the evolutionary continuum and demonstrating with sound scientific evidence that there are some extraordinary non-human cultures being played out in the natural world. . . . This very book can be considered itself an experiment in social transmission. The question is, will we get the message?”
Publishers Weekly
“Humans, though arguably the masters of culture, are not the only species that has it. Dolphins, as the authors reveal, create signature whistles and can mimic and remember others’ even twenty years later. They can also learn tail-walking in captivity and then teach it in the wild. Whales possess dialects that change in a way that can only be explained as the result of learning. And both whales and dolphins behave in ‘obviously altruistic’ ways. Dolphins and whales have saved humans stranded at sea, and humpback whales have been observed saving seals from killer whales. . . . Whitehead and Rendell deeply analyze the importance of culture to evolution, exploring what can be learned from animals that are perhaps more advanced than humans before pushing ‘off to sea again, where there is still so much to learn.’”
Marc Bekoff | Psychology Today
“I’ve been anxiously waiting for The Cultural Lives of Whales and Dolphins to arrive and consumed it last night and early this morning. (It was far better than my coffee!) Of course, I look forward to rereading it many times for it is that good. . . . Scholarly yet easy to read, and incredibly well referenced. . . . The authors provide ample examples of nonhuman culture . . . and also discuss what we know about topics such as the moral lives of animals and others that are making people think twice about just whom other animals are and what we know about their fascinating and highly evolved cognitive and emotional lives. . . . The skeptics, if any still linger, will have to offer more than something like their dismissive claim, ‘Oh, whales and dolphins and other animals are only acting as if they have culture, but they don’t.’ They clearly do. . . . An outstanding book. . . . The Cultural Lives of Whales and Dolphins is destined to become a classic.”
Tina Chan, SUNY Oswego | Library Journal
“Whitehead and Rendell cover cetacean culture from its earliest beginnings to the present day. The authors include research they completed as well as some from other scientists to discover that cetaceans communicate by adapting to the unique environment in which they live, investigating the broad concepts of culture, community, and social learning before applying them to whales and dolphins. Also discussed are the implications of the creatures’ culture as it relates to ecosystems and conservation and the future of the cetacean world, including what it bodes for humans. . . . A captivating book for readers of all levels, from curious laypeople to scientists. . . .  Recommended for both undergraduate and graduate students; researchers; and scholars studying biology, zoology, and veterinary science; and anyone interested in learning about animal behavior.”
Barbara Kiser | Nature
“This research round-up on cetacean culture opens with a description of one of nature’s great arias: the ‘high sweeping squeals, low swoops, barking, and ratchets’ of the humpback whale. That song, argue cetacean biologists Hal Whitehead and Luke Rendell, is the best evidence of culture in this intriguing family, because it is an indicator of social learning in action—communal singing evolves over time and changes radically over individuals’ lifetimes. Fascinating findings litter this sober treatise, from sperm whales snacking off fishing longlines to the ‘Star Wars vocalisation’ of dwarf minkes.”
Bob Holmes | New Scientist
“Whitehead and Rendell suggest that for tens of millions of years—until the rise of modern humans—the most sophisticated cultures on Earth were those of whales. . . . If culture is as important to whales as it appears, then conservationists will need to protect not just their genetic diversity but their cultural diversity as well. All this speculation is underlain by a wealth of biological detail, all carefully annotated, making this book a valuable—and usually very readable—resource for anyone interested in cetacean behaviour.”
Jeremy Mikula | Chicago Tribune, Printers Row
“Noted . . . . Explores the communication techniques and sense of culture developed by different species of whales.”
Philip Hoare, author of "The Whale" and "The Sea Inside" | Guardian (UK)
“Provocative, brilliant. . . . The final chapters of this groundbreaking and beautifully produced book pose stunning questions, and tease out outrageous answers. If culture exists in cetaceans, have they developed an equivalent moral sense of right and wrong? Yes, say the authors. Whales and dolphins observe rituals of the dead and exhibit grief. Could they, then, express spiritual sentiment, founded on values and belief—even a sense of religion? Perhaps. All this only underlines a pressing need to address the notion of non-human rights for such animals. . . . Whitehead and Rendell write with wit and good humour as they take on their critics.”

Chapter 1
Culture in the Ocean?

Chapter 2

Chapter 3
Mammals of the Ocean

Chapter 4
Song of the Whale

Chapter 5
What the Dolphins Do

Chapter 6
Mother Cultures of the Large Toothed Whales

Chapter 7
How Do They Do It?

Chapter 8
Is This Evidence for Culture?

Chapter 9
How the Whales Got Culture

Chapter 10
Whale Culture and Whale Genes

Chapter 11
The Implications of Culture: Ecosystems, Individuals, Stupidity, and Conservation

Chapter 12
The Cultural Whales: How We See Them and How We Treat Them

This Book Came From and Is Built On . . .


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