It Take a Village: The Communal Lives of Sperm Whales

by Carolyn Sotka

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Underwater photographer Franco Banfi captured these amazing images of the 45 tonne mammals swimming close to the island of Dominica

New research published online this week in Animal Behaviour offers a glimpse into the lives of sperm whales and their social networks. It has been difficult to observe sperm whales because they spend so much time hunting squid in deep water but this study followed nine sperm whale families over a 5-year period, off the coast of Dominica Island.

Researchers mapped their social behaviors while at the surface. What they found wasn’t too surprising in that families stuck together, but within families whales preferred time spent with a particular family member. Also, the study found that female whales share babysitting duties and have relationships that span decades.  This suggests sperm whale families may be similar to the matriarchal social order of elephants, which have same-sex bonding over long periods of time and a sophisticated vocal communication.

To learn more about the Dominica Sperm Whale Project check out their Web site.

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