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It has long been thought that cultural exchange is something that makes human society truly exceptional. However, animal behaviourists have shown that other species – apes, elephants, dolphins, wolves and even crows – have culture too. And now, culture club has a new member: the whale.
Whale culture is measured by the level of sharing of information. Clicking sperm whales, calling orcas, singing humpbacks; these all are forms of communication which sound intriguing to renowned filmmaker and marine biologist Rick Rosenthal. Thanks to cutting-edge science, it has emerged that whales are not only intelligent, but use their intelligence to share knowledge and change their behaviour accordingly – for example, when orcas have learned to work together effectively using calls chasing giant schools of herring. On the other hand, humpbacks have learned to interpret the orcas’ calls and hijack the orcas’ carefully herded school of herring – resulting in a humpback feast. And each sperm whale has its own clicking sound, and thereby actively contributing to keep the pod together.
There’s another enigma to solve: humpbacks create a new “song” each year, which travels from the Southern Pacific Ocean to all the corners of the underwater world; but to what purpose?
Filming from the Bahamas to Alaska, from Norway to the Azores, Rosenthal is on a quest to discover not only what the whales are doing – but even what they might be thinking.
A Terra Mater Factual Studios production in co-production with Doclights/NDR Naturfilm in association with ARTE France/Unité Découverte et Connaissance produced by Wild Logic