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Abramson, J. Z., Hernández-Lloreda, V., Call, J., & Colmenares, F. (2013). Experimental evidence for action imitation in killer whales (Orcinus orca). Animal Cognition, 16(1), 11–22.
Abstract: Comparative experimental studies of imitative learning have focused mainly on primates and birds. However, cetaceans are promising candidates to display imitative learning as they have evolved in socioecological settings that have selected for large brains, complex sociality, and coordinated predatory tactics. Here we tested imitative learning in killer whales, Orcinus orca. We used a ‘do-as-other-does’ paradigm in which 3 subjects witnessed a conspecific demonstrator’s performance that included 15 familiar and 4 novel behaviours. The three subjects (1) learned the copy command signal ‘Do that’ very quickly, that is, 20 trials on average; (2) copied 100 % of the demonstrator’s familiar and novel actions; (3) achieved full matches in the first attempt for 8–13 familiar behaviours (out of 15) and for the 2 novel behaviours (out of 2) in one subject; and (4) took no longer than 8 trials to accurately copy any familiar behaviour, and no longer than 16 trials to copy any novel behaviour. This study provides experimental evidence for body imitation, including production imitation, in killer whales that is comparable to that observed in dolphins tested under similar conditions. These findings suggest that imitative learning may underpin some of the group-specific traditions reported in killer whales in the field.
Connor, R. C., Wells, R. S., Mann, J., & Read, A. J. (2000). The bottlenose dolphin: Social relationships in a fission-fusion society. In J. Mann, R. C. Connor, P. L. Tyack, & H. Whitehead (Eds.), Cetacean Societies: Field Studies of Dolphins and Whales. (pp. 91–126). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Abstract: Book Description
“Part review, part testament to extraordinary dedication, and part call to get involved, Cetacean Societies highlights the achievements of behavioral ecologists inspired by the challenges of cetaceans and committed to the exploration of a new world.”-from the preface by Richard Wrangham
Long-lived, slow to reproduce, and often hidden beneath the water's surface, whales and dolphins (cetaceans) have remained elusive subjects for scientific study even though they have fascinated humans for centuries. Until recently, much of what we knew about cetaceans came from commercial sources such as whalers and trainers for dolphin acts. Innovative research methods and persistent efforts, however, have begun to penetrate the depths to reveal tantalizing glimpses of the lives of these mammals in their natural habitats.
Cetacean Societies presents the first comprehensive synthesis and review of these new studies. Groups of chapters focus on the history of cetacean behavioral research and methodology; state-of-the-art reviews of information on four of the most-studied species: bottlenose dolphins, killer whales, sperm whales, and humpback whales; and summaries of major topics, including group living, male and female reproductive strategies, communication, and conservation drawn from comparative research on a wide range of species.
Written by some of the world's leading cetacean scientists, this landmark volume will benefit not just students of cetology but also researchers in other areas of behavioral and conservation ecology as well as anyone with a serious interest in the world of whales and dolphins.
Contributors are Robin Baird, Phillip Clapham, Jenny Christal, Richard Connor, Janet Mann, Andrew Read, Randall Reeves, Amy Samuels, Peter Tyack, Linda Weilgart, Hal Whitehead, Randall S. Wells, and Richard Wrangham.