Summary

At this point, having read many of the preceding pages, it is time to take stock. On the balance of evidence, are sperm whales intelligent in exactly the same sense we are? and, if so could this apply to any other cetacean?

A Summary of Evidence

Like humans farming on land and unlike any other cetacean (ie whales and dolphins), sperm whales fertilise seas of marginal productivity. They measurably increase the biomass of life there, even when accounting for the portion they harvest.

Unlike any other known animal (with the possible exception of humans), the culture to which a sperm whale belongs is a bigger predictor of its reproductive success and growth rate than its genes or its location.

There is strong evidence (a correlation coefficient of 0.808) that mammalian intelligence tracks brain size within orders (and that this correlation diminishes or disappears if any adjustments for body size are made), but that mammalian brains are often constructed differently in different orders. Sperm whale have the largest brain among cetaceans and, in fact, the largest brain of any animal we have ever found evidence of. This is sufficient to imply that the expectation of intelligence for sperm whales should be the highest among cetaceans. Cetaceans are considered to be a mammalian order high in intelligence, often thought to be second only to primates.

Sperm whale brains are poorly studied, but they are known to have a much larger proportion of cerebrum than any other brain (including the human brain). This implies a brain morphology specialised for general intelligence at the expense of body control.

Like land mammals and unlike any other cetacean, sperm whales need bihemispheric and REM sleep. This indicates that their brain, like ours, should prove specialised by hemisphere, and that attaining higher intelligence is more important to their success than lowering the levels of (killer whale) predation against them.

Unlike any other whale, some ‘unprovoked’ sperm whales mounted attacks against whaling longboats or their mother ships. One (Mocha Dick) even mounted a sustained decades long campaign against at least a hundred of them. Other fighters sustained injuries that were almost certainly mortal against whaling motherships. Their most famous sinking was the whaleship Essex.

As occasionally seen in humans, higher levels of altruism are displayed in sperm whale societies than can be explained by genetic relatedness. The poster example of this is that unit members other than the mother are often seen suckling a calf. This is hard to explain in terms of genetically driven instinct given that up to 30% of unit members are completely unrelated to the others, and that no preferential association with related individuals has ever been demonstrated within sperm whale units. Nothing remotely similar has been observed in any other animal.

Like humans, and unlike any other nonhuman animal, sperm whale vocalisations break down into thousands of discrete ‘words’ under standard analytic techniques. Today, this phenomenon is being dismissed in regard to having linguistic importance, and thought due to other, currently unknown, factors.

 

Summary of How YOU Might Prove or Disprove Sperm whales as Our Peers

1) Examining the pattern of cerebral gene selection. Contextualising it within the cetaceans, and paralleling it to work on human brain genetics within other primates.

2) Using the correct and full coda breakdown as given by the Duda-Hart analysis of the standard program in use today, then measuring its Shannon entropy and examining it for syntax (Warning – you will need at least a 2000 coda database from a single unit pod for this too work even on the simplest coda type).

2b) Using the correct and full coda breakdown as given by the Duda-Hart analysis of the standard program in use today, then searching for motherese. This pattern should be very clear and immediately obvious, and may well be the easiest way to to test the theory. Also, unless  the raw data has been lost that generated some previous peer reviewed papers, such a data set almost certainly exists today.

3) Finding a strong association of sperm whales with bottlenose dolphins prior to 1847.

4) Simply going out and contacting them directly.

 

Note that the first two of the above can be done with preexisting data, if you have access, and the right software, it would take a few days or even hours work to find a first ballpark estimate. Risk/reward analysis screams: what are you waiting for. Just do it!

A Final Note

This is not a hypothesis that may take centuries to decide. The point is, if sperm whales are intelligent in exactly the same sense as us,  then a true concerted effort to contact them should succeed within a few days, given an interdisciplinary team of specialists with the right equipment. This could transform our civilisation like nothing else, so I ask the question, how high a price might we be paying by not examining the possibility?