I found a great video courtesy of Melissa about how humpback whales go fishing:
This is clearly not a purely instinctual behavior. It has to be a socially learned task that has spread throughout the humpback community. Anyway, humpbacks are pretty strange. They have a whale song but no one knows why – are they talking? is it echolocative? is it to attract females? warn other males? But the songs they sing are definitely culturally influenced. I wonder what a snooty whale accent sounds like?
Speaking of marine mammal cultural transmission, dolphin learning to use tools were recently discovered. Apparently, some gang of dolphins has figured out how to use sea sponges to more effectively search for food. Even better, this behavior is explicitly taught to their children – confirmed cultural transmission. How fun! But only the females use it; apparently male dolphins learn, but give it up upon reaching adulthood.
There are a lot of theories as to why only females use the sponges, from males just not being sponge-worthy, to differences in behavior (males enjoy groups, females enjoy solidarity), to females preferring to stay away from packs of males because they don’t like being gang-raped. Oh, the things I learn about dolphins.