The Subcultures of Sperm Whales & How This is Changing Conservation Science


in this episode

One of the most fascinating shifts happening right now in conservation biology is factoring in different cultures within certain species and the need to protect and preserve each one as we do the species overall.
You might think, well how do we know animals have culture?  How do we know their behaviors are not all genetically programmed?  And if they do have succinct subcultures, why is it important to preserve each one?  Well, in today’s podcast episode we are going to answer these questions and more.
The species we are going to draw from are Sperm Whales.  Known as an “animal of extremes” for their unique characteristics and lifestyle, sperm whales are the whales made famous by the book Moby Dick, and are one of the most social and communicative whale species on the planet.
Joining us is Hal Whitehead, a biologist and professor who has been studying Sperm Whales and other cetaceans for decades.  You’d really enjoy his Ted Talk as well linked here.
We really loved recording this episode and learning from Hal, we hope you will as well!
3:10 – Intro to Hal and his work
5:10 – Cultural vs. Genetic Behaviors
10:15 – Sperm Whales & Their Cultural Identifiers
20:20 – How Animal Cultures evolve like our own
26:10 – How Protecting Subcultures is Changing Conservation Science