Analyzing Animal Societies: Quantitative Methods for Vertebrate Social Analysis

University of Chicago Press
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Animals lead rich social lives. They care for one another, compete for resources, and mate. Within a society, social relationships may be simple or complex and usually vary considerably, both between different groups of individuals and over time. These social systems are fundamental to biological organization, and animal societies are central to studies of behavioral and evolutionary biology. But how do we study animal societies? How do we take observations of animals fighting, grooming, or forming groups and produce a realistic description or model of their societies?

Analyzing AnimalSocieties presents a conceptual framework for analyzing social behavior and demonstrates how to put this framework into practice by collecting suitable data on the interactions and associations of individuals so that relationships can be described, and, from these, models can be derived. In addition to presenting the tools, Hal Whitehead illustrates their applicability using a wide range of real data on a variety of animal species—from bats and chimps to dolphins and birds. The techniques that Whitehead describes will be profitably adopted by scientists working with primates, cetaceans, birds, and ungulates, but the tools can be used to study societies of invertebrates, amphibians, and even humans. Analyzing AnimalSocieties will become a standard reference for those studying vertebrate social behavior and will give to these studies the kind of quality standard already in use in other areas of the life sciences.
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About the author

Hal Whitehead is a University Research Professor in the Department of Biology at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and the author of Sperm Whales: Social Evolution in the Ocean, also published by the University of Chicago Press.
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Additional Information

Publisher
University of Chicago Press
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Published on
Sep 15, 2008
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Pages
320
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ISBN
9780226895246
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Language
English
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Genres
Science / General
Science / Life Sciences / Biology
Science / Life Sciences / Evolution
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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In the songs and bubble feeding of humpback whales; in young killer whales learning to knock a seal from an ice floe in the same way their mother does; and in the use of sea sponges by the dolphins of Shark Bay, Australia, to protect their beaks while foraging for fish, we find clear examples of the transmission of information among cetaceans. Just as human cultures pass on languages and turns of phrase, tastes in food (and in how it is acquired), and modes of dress, could whales and dolphins have developed a culture of their very own?

Unequivocally: yes. In The Cultural Lives of Whales and Dolphins, cetacean biologists Hal Whitehead, who has spent much of his life on the ocean trying to understand whales, and Luke Rendell, whose research focuses on the evolution of social learning, open an astounding porthole onto the fascinating culture beneath the waves. As Whitehead and Rendell show, cetacean culture and its transmission are shaped by a blend of adaptations, innate sociality, and the unique environment in which whales and dolphins live: a watery world in which a hundred-and-fifty-ton blue whale can move with utter grace, and where the vertical expanse is as vital, and almost as vast, as the horizontal.

Drawing on their own research as well as a scientific literature as immense as the sea—including evolutionary biology, animal behavior, ecology, anthropology, psychology, and neuroscience—Whitehead and Rendell dive into realms both humbling and enlightening as they seek to define what cetacean culture is, why it exists, and what it means for the future of whales and dolphins. And, ultimately, what it means for our future, as well.
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