Song hybridization events during revolutionary song change provide insights into cultural transmission in humpback whales

Garland, Ellen C., Rendell, Luke, Lamoni, Luca, Poole, M. Michael and Noad, Michael J. (2017) Song hybridization events during revolutionary song change provide insights into cultural transmission in humpback whales. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 114 30: 7822-7829. doi:10.1073/pnas.1621072114

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Author Garland, Ellen C.
Rendell, Luke
Lamoni, Luca
Poole, M. Michael
Noad, Michael J.
Title Song hybridization events during revolutionary song change provide insights into cultural transmission in humpback whales
Journal name Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0027-8424
1091-6490
Publication date 2017-07-01
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1073/pnas.1621072114
Open Access Status File (Publisher version)
Volume 114
Issue 30
Start page 7822
End page 7829
Total pages 8
Place of publication Washington, DC, United States
Publisher National Academy of Sciences
Language eng
Abstract Cultural processes occur in a wide variety of animal taxa, from insects to cetaceans. The songs of humpback whales are one of the most striking examples of the transmission of a cultural trait and social learning in any nonhuman animal. To understand how songs are learned, we investigate rare cases of song hybridization, where parts of an existing song are spliced with a new one, likely before an individual totally adopts the new song. Song unit sequences were extracted from over 9,300 phrases recorded during two song revolutions across the South Pacific Ocean, allowing fine-scale analysis of composition and sequencing. In hybrid songs the current and new songs were spliced together in two specific ways: (i) singers placed a single hybrid phrase, in which content from both songs were combined, between the two song types when transitioning from one to the other, and/or (ii) singers spliced complete themes from the revolutionary song into the current song. Sequence analysis indicated that both processes were governed by structural similarity rules. Hybrid phrases or theme substitutions occurred at points in the songs where both songs contained “similar sounds arranged in a similar pattern.” Songs appear to be learned as segments (themes/phrase types), akin to birdsong and human language acquisition, and these can be combined in predictable ways if the underlying structural pattern is similar. These snapshots of song change provide insights into the mechanisms underlying song learning in humpback whales, and comparative perspectives on the evolution of human language and culture.
Keyword Cetacean
Cultural transmission
Humpback whale
Song
Vocal learning
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Provisional Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: HERDC Pre-Audit
School of Veterinary Science Publications
 
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