If you doubted the intelligence of whales

Back in the 19th century, sperm whales met a new predator, the human. Unlike orcas, humans could kill the giant whales even when they were grouped together in tight circles. In fact, the grouping only made it easier for humans to kill the whales.

And yet, within a few years the whales changed their tactic: Instead of defending themselves they broke off and swam away. And not just that, they swam against the wind making it very difficult for the hunters to catch them.

The hunters themselves realised the whales’ efforts to escape. They saw that the animals appeared to communicate the threat within their attacked groups. Abandoning their usual defensive formations, the whales swam upwind to escape the hunters’ ships, themselves wind-powered. ‘This was cultural evolution, much too fast for genetic evolution,’ says Whitehead.
— “Sperm whales in 19th century shared ship attack information

While sperm whales are matrilineal, the males are much larger than the females which is often seen in species where males fight for mates. This probably explains the famous cases of sperm whale bulls attacking, and sinking, whaling ships.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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