Each pod of killer whales (orcas) shares a unique repertoire of discrete calls - a vocal dialect, which passes from mother to offspring through social learning.
Dr. Patrick Miller's Lab will be hosting research fellow Dr. Olga Filatova funded by a £214,467 Marie Curie International Incoming Fellowship for two years. Olga's project will focus on dialect evolution in killer whales.
It is commonly accepted that killer whale dialects change gradually with time by accumulation of copying errors, but some observations suggest that call evolution is a much more complex phenomenon.
The goal of the research is to reveal the principles of killer whale dialect evolution. The project will lead to better understanding of the general principles of cultural evolution and yield a model of dialect evolution. It is hoped that this model will allow researchers to determine the population structure of killer whales by their vocal dialects, which will significantly help conservation and management of killer whale populations.
contact: Prof Patrick Miller