The Lost Cultures of Whales : NYT

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Teresa Binstock

Oct 10, 2016, 8:19:08 AM10/10/16
The Lost Cultures of Whales


....The whale families we work with, members of the Eastern Caribbean Clan, are shrinking. Their population is declining by as much as 4 percent a year, as we reported last week in the journal PLOS One, largely a result of climate change and the increasing human presence in these waters. (Whales can be hit by ships or become entangled in fishing gear.) We are not just losing specific whales that we have come to know as individuals; we are losing a way of life, a culture — the accumulated wisdom of generations on how to survive in the deep waters of the Caribbean Sea. They may have lived here for longer than we have walked upright.

Sperm whales live rich and complex lives in a part of the world we find difficult to even explore. And many aspects of their lives appear remarkably similar to our own. Grandmothers, mothers and daughters babysit, defend and raise calves together. Family is critical to surviving in the open ocean, and each has its own way of doing things. The whales live in communities of neighboring families in a multicultural oceanic society.

Behavior is what you do, culture is how you do it. All sperm whales do the same things — feed, swim, babysit, defend, socialize — but how they do them is different around the world....

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Critical Decline of the Eastern Caribbean Sperm Whale Population
Shane Gero, Hal Whitehead
PLOS, October 5, 2016

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