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 Will Publish November 2014
E-book $21.00 ISBN: 9780226187426 Will Publish November 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.
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.”
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.”
Contents

Chapter 1
Culture in the Ocean?

Chapter 2
Culture?

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 . . .

Notes
Bibliography
Index

For more information, or to order this book, please visit http://www.press.uchicago.edu
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