In humans, different social groups, cities, or regions often have distinct accents and dialects. Those vocal traits are not unique to us, however. A new study from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) has found that short-finned pilot whales living off the coast of Hawaii have their own sorts of vocal dialects, a discovery that may help researchers understand the whales’ complex social structure. The study was published on Dec. 14, 2018, in the journal Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology.
“These groups of pilot whales all use the same habitat. The fact that they have different vocal repertoires means that they’re purposely not associating with each other,” says Amy Van Cise, a Postdoctoral Scholar at WHOI and lead author on the study. “It’s sort of like if you’ve got hipsters and prep kids in the same high school—each group has different slang. They identify themselves with certain speech to maintain that separation.”
For more information about WHOI visit their website by clicking here.