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Culture and conservation of non-humans with reference to whales and dolphins: review and new directions

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Author(s)

H Whitehead, Luke Edward Rendell, R W Osborne, B Wursig

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Abstract

There is increasing evidence that culture is an important determinant of behavior in some non-human species including great apes and cetaceans (whales and dolphins). In some cases, there may be repercussions for population biology and conservation. Rapidly evolving "horizontal" cultures, transmitted largely within generations, may help animals deal with anthropogenic change and even allow them to exploit it, sometimes with negative consequences for both the animals and humans. In contrast, stable "vertical" or "oblique" cultures, transmitted principally between generations, may impede adaptation to environmental change, and confound range recovery, reintroductions and translocations. Conformist stable cultures can lead to maladaptive behavior, which may be mistaken for the results of anthropogenic threats. They can also structure populations into sympatric sub-populations with distinctive cultural variants. Such structuring is common among cetaceans, among which sympatric sub-populations may face different anthropogenic threats or respond to the same threat in different ways. We suggest that non-human culture should be integrated into conservation biology when considering populations with such attributes, and also more generally by refining definitions of evolutionarily significant units and considering how cultural attributes may change our perspectives of non-humans. (C) 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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Details

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)427-437
Number of pages11
JournalBiological Conservation
Volume120
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2004

    Research areas

  • culture, conservation, social learning, whale, dolphin, BOTTLE-NOSED DOLPHINS, KILLER-WHALES, ORCINUS-ORCA, SPERM-WHALES, PHYSETER-MACROCEPHALUS, CETACEAN CULTURE, ADJACENT WATERS, FEEDING SUCCESS, TRANSMISSION, EVOLUTION

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