A Higher Level of Language

“The sea, the great unifier, is man’s only hope.
Now, as never before, the old phrase
has a literal meaning: we are
all in the same boat.
Jacques Yves Cousteau

A Higher Level of Language

Scientists and researchers have known for quite some time that some of the most intelligent animals can be found not on land, but in our oceans.

For example, the sperm whale has the largest brain of any animal on earth, yet it is not considered one of the more intelligent aquatic marine mammals. Orcas and dolphins show strong signs of high intelligence, such as complex play behavior, the ability to learn, the ability to plan and even have regional dialects.

The patterns of clicking vocalisations these aquatic mammals use to communicate vary from clan to clan. Each whale clan, or group consisting of several families, has its own specific accent, or dialect.

A recent study in Canada, has evidence of these mammals capability of cultural learning; more specifically, that the whales learn the clicking patterns from each other, rather than other methods, such as genetic inheritance.

Several methods of evaluating their clicking sounds were examined. In the genetic inheritance method, for instance, whales inherit the ability to know which sounds to produce. Another method tested was individual learning, in which individual whales develop clicking patterns on their own. A third method was pure social learning, in which young whales learn clicking patterns indiscriminately from older whales.

What the study found is that social learning with bias, as opposed to pure social learning, is the most likely way whales learn clicking patterns. This means that the whales are biased towards learning certain clicking patterns, based on specific clicking from whales in their own clans, or the most commonly used. This is similar to how human dialects evolve.

It seems that man is not as unique with his communication skills as was always believed. There are other animals in the world, such as the whale that may have a great deal to teach man about a higher level of language.

Shine On

Whale Watching at its Finest

“Most whale photos you see
show whales in this beautiful blue water
– it’s almost like space.”
                                                                                                        Brian Skerry

Gray Whale Family

Living on the Esplanade in Redondo Beach the past decade has not only been amazing and beautiful, but it allows you to experience the miracles of marine life. It’s mind-blowing to be able to watch the most spectacular sunsets 365 days a year. Without the use of binoculars, see dolphins playing daily along with seals and sea lions. Watch soaring seagulls and pelicans diving for their daily catch. Yet, with all of Redondo Beach’s beauty, the most breathtaking sight the past few weeks has been watching several baby gray whales swimming just 30 feet from the ocean breakwaters.

Witnessing from ones balcony, the longest migration known to man, raises curiosity about gray whales and what brought them to the shores of Redondo Beach.

The gray whale feed on shrimp, which is abundant this time of year in Redondo Beach. Baby gray whales are called calves and can be as long as a large SUV and weigh as much as a ton. The mother gray whales bring their calves to lagoons to feed for a few months, so that the calves can build up blubber for their yearly migration from Southern California to Alaska.  A record-setting number of gray whales were born in Baja California this year.

It is great news that there has been an increase in the gray whale population, since it was listed as endangered in the 1970’s. However, with the increase in gray whales there has also been an increase in the number of whales becoming entangled in fishing lines and colliding with large ships. The other conundrum for these magnificent mammals is their predator the Orcas. These Orcas breed and live in the waters off Catalina Island and this may explain why the baby grays are feeding so close to the shore on the Esplanade. Could it be that these highly intelligent whales were hiding from the Orcas?

Whatever the reason, it’s a great opportunity to watch baby grays up close and personal. If you’d like to witness the gray whale spring migration from Baja California to Alaska this year, you don’t have to travel far. Just come down to the Esplanade in Redondo Beach and may be, with a little luck and timing, you too can catch a glimpse of these prehistoric mammals make their massive migration and witness whale watching at its finest.

Shine On