Whales in Networks

In a recent article published in Science Magazine, researchers describe a hunting technique whales have taught each other. It seems that this behavior, first observed in 1981, has spread to about 40% of the humpback whale population.

The finding is significant from a scientific perspective because it was thought that primates were the only animals that could teach each other behavior that’s not genetically programmed.

It’s relevant to our class because it seems very similar to the adoption and cascade models we studied in chapter. It’s easy to imagine that whales traveling together represent a network. From there, it’s also easy to imagine that if enough of the whales adopt the new technique, it would spread throughout the network. There’s even a good reason to think this behavior would spread from one network to another. Whales leave their mothers at age two and join other pods. If a whale was born in a pod that used that behavior and left it, it could be an initial adopter in its next pod.

Unfortunately, the original article requires a subscription to Science Magazine, which I don’t have. Here are two articles that summarize the original one. (One, Two)
This is a video that shows the technique that is spreading.