Research from N.S. prof suggests sperm whales taught each other how to avoid whalers News Staff

HALIFAX — New research from a team including a Dalhousie University biologist suggests sperm whales taught each other to avoid whalers in the 18th and 19th centuries.

The scientists published a paper today in the journal Biology Letters saying sperm whales in the North Pacific quickly changed their habits to avoid open-boat whalers.

Dalhousie biology professor Hal Whitehead, co-author of the study, says log books from American whalers in the North Pacific show that successful harpooning trips fell by about 58 per cent over the first few years of hunting in the region.

The professor at the Halifax university says the large mammals may have learned to adopt defensive measures from others in their close social units.

Some of the evasive methods noted by whalers in the log books included swimming upwind to evade the hunters in row boats and getting close enough to attack the vessels.

The research also indicates sperm whales could likely sense and co-ordinate behaviour over several kilometres.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 17, 2021.

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This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

The Canadian Press

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