Believed to Be Solitary, Male Sperm Whales Actually Hang With the Boys–in Friendships That Can Last Years
A Japanese biologist studying the social structure of sperm whales has discovered that the phrase “Children’s Saturday” translates into echolocation.
Their research reveals that male sperm whales form strong platonic social bonds among other normally solitary males, shedding light on the evolution of bromance in mammals.
Famous for spending time hunting in the deep ocean, or wandering lone wolf style, male sperm whales are not easy to investigate. Their female halves normally live together in herds of matriarchal leadership, expelling the males, much like elephants, when they reach sexual maturity.
This was long thought to be the whole story for male sperm whales, but in reality they maintain close male-to-male relationships that can extend not only over the years, but also through meetings.
The first evidence that this was the case was mass stranding events consisting only of males, prompting whale biologist Hayao Kobayashi to spend thousands of hours aboard whale-watching vessels collecting observational data.
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In total, their study reports that twenty pairs of sperm whales observed between 2006 and 2017 in the Strait of Nemuro, Japan, were repeatedly seen associating with each other for periods of between 2 and 5 years. A pair was found to have spent 26 days hanging over a 5-year period. Male elephants associate in similar ways, mating for little-understood reasons outside of mating season.
Kobayashi’s study reporting the findings suggests that behavior is due to habitat, and that in areas where food is unreliable, or where predators are numerous, male sperm whales begin to associate.
A whale is a huge animal for any predator, plus the sperm whale has huge conical teeth. Two together essentially put them beyond what can be calculated for even the largest squid or shark.
In hunting terms, Kobayashi said Hakai Magazine that two males could hunt more effectively or share information about hunting environments through echolocation.
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Friendship is a complex animal trait, and understanding it outside of primates is difficult, but knowing that whales bring the boys together for a weekend fishing trip is a fascinating discovery, and Kobayashi feels that the more we find out about whales. , the more similarities we will discover. between them and us.
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