re: killer whale culture

An equally odd aspect of killer whale culture concerns food taboos and ways that whales observe them. In this they offer an extraordinary parallel with some human cultures…Killer whales are strongly xenophobic. Clans of salmon eaters never mix with mammal eaters, for example. Genetic studies show that clans with different food taboos don’t interbreed, leading to slightly different appearances and genetic makeup. Each clan has a distinctive dialect of vocalizations (perhaps we should call them languages), which facilitates coordination of their work, division of their labor, and care of one another.

More via the New York Review of Books where Tim Flannery reviews Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel by Carl Safina and The Cultural Lives of Whales and Dolphins by Hal Whitehead and Luke Rendell.

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