Cetaceans, such as dolphins and whales, have complex societies with behaviors that closely resemble human and primate relationships, new research suggests. In a first study of its kind, scientists have created a comprehensive database of brain sizes and behaviors in 90 species of dolphins, whales and porpoises. They found evidence of such complex social behaviors as vocalizations with regional group “dialects”, alloparenting, cooperative hunting, inter-species cooperation, and much more. Study findings also suggest that societal and cultural traits in cetaceans are linked with brain size and brain expansion. Study authors argue that large brains in marine mammals are an evolutionary response to complex and information-rich social environments.


Kieran C. R. Fox, Michael Muthukrishna & Susanne Shultz

Canadian author: 

Kieran C. R. Fox, Department of Neurology and Neurological Sciences, Stanford University, Email: kcrfox@stanford.edu

Original paper published in Nature Ecology & Evolution on October 16, 2017.