Social complexity and cultural transmission of dialects in killer whales

in Behaviour
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Many social animals have cultural traditions that may shape their societies while the social structure can in turn influence how the culture is acquired. Killer whales possess culturally transmitted dialects. The divergence of dialects was thought to occur simultaneously and consistently with the gradual fission of matrilines. In this paper we compare the social associations across matrilineal units, Bayesian phylogeny of dialects and similarity of particular syllables to test whether dialects affect social structure and whether associations or common origin define similarity of call types. We found that neither phylogeny of dialects nor similarity of syllables was correlated to associations between matrilineal units, but similarity of syllables was correlated to phylogeny of dialects for four of the six syllables analysed. The complexity and fluidity of social ties between matrilineal units and the variation in cultural transmission patterns produce a complex relationship between the social network and the socially learned vocalizations.

Social complexity and cultural transmission of dialects in killer whales

in Behaviour



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    Sample sonograms of K1, K5 and K7 calls of 14 matrilineal units used for the analysis of syllables.

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    Syllables of K1, K5 and K7 calls, from which the contours were extracted. Syllables of the low-frequency components are shown in red, and the syllable of the high-frequency component is shown in green. This figure is published in colour in the online edition of this journal, which can be accessed via

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    Time and frequency parameters measured from each syllable. This figure is published in colour in the online edition of this journal, which can be accessed via

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    (a) Phylogeny of full repertoires of 21 killer whale matrilineal units calculated through Bayesian inference. The colour of the edges indicates the dialect group. (b) Unit-level social network for 21 killer whale matrilineal units. The colour of the nodes corresponds to the dialect group. Only the connections with a simple ratio index above the median level between dialect groups (0.1) are shown. This figure is published in colour in the online edition of this journal, which can be accessed via

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    Social associations between matrilineal units plotted against Bayesian distances between dialects. Open circles indicate the relationships of units/dialects between dialect groups, and closed circles indicate the relationships within dialect groups; the colour corresponds to the dialect group in Figure 4. Histogram of Bayesian distances between dialects is shown in the background in grey. This figure is published in colour in the online edition of this journal, which can be accessed via

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    Acoustic similarity of six syllables of K1, K5 and K7 call types from 14 matrilineal units determined using dynamic time warping: (a) main syllable of K1 call type; (b) first syllable of K5 call type; (c) second syllable of K5 call type; (d) third (main) syllable of K5 call type; (e) main syllable of K7 call type; (f) high-frequency syllable of K7 call type. The colour of the circles corresponds to the dialect group in Figure 4. This figure is published in colour in the online edition of this journal, which can be accessed via

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    Plots of the six measured syllables of 14 matrilineal units in the space of the first two linear discriminants. Two parameters that contributed most to the discrimination of matrilineal units are indicated above each plot. The colour of the unit abbreviations corresponds to the dialect group in Figure 4. This figure is published in colour in the online edition of this journal, which can be accessed via

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