The use of AI to decode sperm whale communication marks a significant step forward in our understanding of animal cognition and social structures.
The use of AI to decode sperm whale communication marks a significant step forward in our understanding of animal cognition and social structures.

Decoding sperm whale language

Recent advancements in artificial intelligence have provided researchers with unprecedented insights into the communication patterns of sperm whales, suggesting a sophisticated language system among these majestic marine mammals. 

A new study published in Nature Communications reveals that sperm whales may possess a highly structured form of communication and sheds light on the cognitive abilities of sperm whales, suggesting a level of social complexity previously attributed primarily to humans and some primates.

This diagram shows the difference in length between a PCFG gray whale born in 2020 and one born before the year 2000.

Why have Pacific Coast gray whales become shorter?

Marine scientists from Oregon State University have observed a concerning trend in the body size of gray whales off the Pacific Northwest coast. Since around 2000, these whales have shown a significant decrease in length, raising alarms about their overall health and the state of the ecosystem.

Male Humpback Whales encounter
Male Humpback Whale encounter (Lyle Krannichfeld and Brandi Romano/granted by source)

Surprising Sexual Encounter Seen in Humpback Whales

Lyle Krannichfeld and Brandi Romano observed two whales circling near their boat before joining in sexual activity about five metres below their vessel, off the Molokini crater near Maui. They were able to photograph them, providing an unprecedented glimpse into the intimate lives of these marine giants. Dr. Stephanie H. Stack, marine mammal researcher in Hawaii, published the observations in a study.

New research reveals how some whales can sing while holding their breath underwater
New research reveals how some whales can sing while holding their breath underwater.

How Whales Can Sing Underwater

This discovery sheds light on the unique physiological adaptations that allow these marine giants to perform such vocal feats.

The research's primary focus involved examining humpback whales' laryngeal anatomy. Researchers found that specific adaptations in the whale's larynx enable it to produce song even without the continuous passage of air, contrary to what is typically required for sound production in most mammals, including humans.

Humpback Whale
Humpback Whale

Alarming Population Decline in Humpback Whales as a Result of Global Warming

The decline marks a significant departure from decades of slow population growth following the end of commercial whaling.

The study, conducted by a team of marine biologists led by Ted Cheeseman, found that the decline in humpback whale numbers coincided with the onset of a massive ocean heat wave, colloquially known as 'the blob', which began in 2013 and lasted until 2016. The blob led to widespread die-offs of man

Blue whale hybrids

Researchers analyzed the genomes of North Atlantic blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus musculus) and found surprisingly high levels of fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus) DNA, suggesting extensive interbreeding.

Blue whales, the largest animals on Earth, faced severe population decline due to historic whaling, leading to their current endangered status. The North Atlantic subspecies is particularly at risk. The study aimed to assess inbreeding within this population, crucial for their recovery.

Dolphins illustration
Microplastics were found embedded in the tissues of about two-thirds of marine mammals in the study. (Photo illustration: G. Symes. Source images: Pixabay license)

Microplastics discovered in tissues of dolphins and whales

The study, set to be published in the October 15th issue of Environmental Pollution, has provided evidence that microscopic plastic particles, which were discovered in the fats and lungs of around two-thirds of the marine mammals investigated, are not confined to the digestive tracts of these creatures but can migrate and embed themselves in their vital tissues.

A depiction shows Tutcetus rayanensis, belonging to the extinct group of early whales called basilosauridae, in its appearance around 41 million years ago within the Tethys Ocean.

Fossil triggers monumental change in our comprehension of whales' evolutionary history

With an estimated weight of 412.3 pounds (187 kilograms) and a length of 8.2 feet (2.5 meters), this newly documented species is roughly the size of a modern-day bottlenose dolphin.

Named Tutcetus rayanensis, this creature belonged to the extinct basilosauridae family, which was one of the earliest groups to become fully aquatic. As revealed in a study published in Communications Biology on Thursday, this diminutive specimen is considerably older than other basilosaurids from the Eocene Epoch.