Humpback whales pass on hunting techniques to each other just like humans do, a new study has revealed. A team of researchers, led by the University of St Andrews, has discovered that a new feeding technique has spread to 40% of a humpback whale population.
The community of humpback whales off New England, USA, was forced to find new prey after herring stocks — their preferred food — crashed in the early 1980s. The solution the whales devised — hitting the water with their tails while hunting a different prey — has now spread through the population by cultural transmission. By 2007, nearly 40 percent of the population had been seen doing it.
Dr Luke Rendell of the team said, “Our study really shows how vital cultural transmission is in humpback populations. not only do they learn their famous songs from each other, they also learn feeding techniques that allow them to buffer the effects of changing ecology.”