Dr Luke Rendell

Dr Luke Rendell
MASTS Reader in Biology


"The true biologist deals with life, with teeming boisterous life, and learns something from it, learns that the first rule of life is living"
John Steinbeck, The Log from the Sea of Cortez

ResearcherID: G-2594-2010

I am a Reader in Biology supported by the Marine Alliance for Science and Technology Scotland (MASTS). I am affiliated with the Scottish Ocean Institute, Sea Mammal Research Unit, the Centre for Biological Diversity, the Centre for Social Learning and Cognitive Evolution, and the Institute of Behavioural and Neural Sciences.

I have broad research interests, largely centred around the evolution of learning, behaviour and communication, with a special focus on marine mammals.

Latest paper(s)
Nick A.R. Jones, Mike Webster, Christopher N. Templeton, Stefan Schuster, Luke Rendell (2018) Presence of an audience and consistent interindividual differences affect archerfish shooting behaviour. Animal Behaviour DOI: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2018.04.024

In this study we investigated whether archerfish display any behavioural changes in response to the presence of an audience while using their specialized foraging tactic of spitting precisely aimed jets of water at prey targets. We found that in the presence of another fish, archerfish took longer to shoot, made more orientations (aiming events) per shot, and tended to be closer to the target at the time of shooting. Our results show that archerfish are sensitive to, and adjust their shooting behaviour in response to, the presence of an audience and highlight the importance of social context in this fish species.

Elena Miu, Ned Gulley, Kevin N. Laland & Luke Rendell (2018) Innovation and cumulative culture through tweaks and leaps in online programming contests. Nature Communications volume 9

The ability to build progressively on the achievements of earlier generations is central to human uniqueness, but experimental investigations of this cumulative cultural evolution lack real-world complexity. We studied the dynamics of cumulative culture using a large-scale data set from online collaborative programming competitions run over 14 years. Results showed that cumulative cultural evolution reduces technological diversity over time, as populations focus on refining high-performance solutions. While individual entries borrow from few sources, iterative copying allows populations to integrate ideas from many sources, demonstrating a new form of collective intelligence. Our results imply that maximising technological progress requires accepting high levels of failure.

Our book, The Cultural Lives of Whales and Dolphins is even available at Amazon! Hear it discussed on BBC Radio 4's "Start the Week". Listen to a podcast of a discussion between myself and author Phillip Hoare at the LSE Philosophy Forum here

Sperm whale society and ecology
I have been studying the ecology, communication and societies of sperm whales, the largest of the toothed whales, showing how long lasting social groups use distinctive vocal dialects that appear to be culturally transmitted. Part of this work is my involvement in running the Balearics Sperm Whale Project and as a collaborator of the Dominica Sperm Whale Project.

Culture in whales and dolphins
In whales and dolphins we find examples of both complex communication and apparently widespread social learning, a simple form of culture. I am using statistical models to assess the evidence for social learning in wild cetaceans.

Evolutionary modelling
I also use evolutionary simulation models to understand how these processes like social learning might have evolved, and how they might be related to the evolution of other kinds of behaviour, such as cooperation and niche-construction.

Human social learning
I use experimental approaches to understand how we negotiate the trade-offs involved in deciding whether to use social information to make simple decisions, as a window into how we have evolved to make best use of our cultural inheritance.

East Coast Marine Mammal Acoustic Study (ECOMMAS)
We are deploying passive listening buoys along the Scottish coastline in collaboration with Marine Scotland Science to monitor the impact of coastal windfarm development and also to give insight into acoustic behaviour of marine mammals.

Science without borders!

An approach to academic life: 12 guidelines for survival

Dr Charlotte Dunn finished her PhD "Insights into Blainville's Beaked Whale (Mesoplodon densirostris) communication" in January 2015

Dr Thomas Morgan completed his PhD, co-supervised with Kevin Laland and titled "Experimental studies of human social learning and its evolution" in December 2013

Dr Laurel Fogarty completed her PhD, co-supervised with Kevin Laland and titled "From social learning to culture: Mathematical and computational models of cultural evolution" in June 2012

Dr Ricardo Antunes completed his PhD, co-supervised with Phil Hammond and Jonathan Gordon, and titled "Variation in sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus) coda vocalizations and social structure in the North Atlantic Ocean" in March 2009

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50 (of 99 /dk/atira/pure/researchoutput/status/published available) for ler4 (source: University of St Andrews PURE)
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Coda repertoire and vocal clans of sperm whales in the western Atlantic Ocean Thiago Orion Simões Amorim, Luke Edward Rendell, Juliana Di Tulio, Eduardo R. Secchi, Franciele R. Castro, Artur Andriolo
Deep Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers 2020 vol. 160
Cognitive styles Nicholas Andrew Roderick Jones, Michael Munro Webster, Cait Newport, Christopher Neal Templeton, Stefan Schuster, Luke Edward Rendell
Animal Behaviour 2020 vol. 160 pp. 1-14
Flexible learning, rather than inveterate innovation or copying, drives cumulative knowledge gain Ned Gulley, Kevin Neville Laland, Luke Edward Rendell
Science Advances 2020 vol. 6
Vocal sequences in narwhals (Monodon monoceros) Sam Walmsley, Luke Edward Rendell, Nigel Hussey, Marianne Marcoux
Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 2020 vol. 147 pp. 1078-1091
Animal cultures matter for conservation Philippa Brakes, Sasha R. X. Dall, Lucy M. Aplin, Stuart Bearhop, Emma Louise Carroll, Paolo Ciucci, Vicki Fishlock, John K. B. Ford, Ellen Clare Garland, Sally A. Keith, Peter K. McGregor, Sarah L. Mesnick, Michael J. Noad, Giuseppe Notarbartolo di Sciara, Martha M. Robbins, Mark P. Simmonds, Fernando Spina, Alex Thornton, Paul R. Wade, Martin J. Whiting, James Williams, Luke Edward Rendell, Hal Whitehead, Andrew Whiten, Christian Rutz
Science 2019 vol. 363 pp. 1032-1034
Causes and consequences of female centrality in cetacean societies Luke Edward Rendell, Mauricio Cantor, Shane Gero, Hal Whitehead, Janet Mann
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. B, Biological Sciences 2019 vol. 374
Habitat use of a coastal delphinid population investigated using passive acoustic monitoring Kate L. Brookes, Ian M. Davies, Ewan Edwards, Luke Edward Rendell
Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 2019 vol. 29 pp. 254-270
Habitat use of culturally distinct Galápagos sperm whale Physeter macrocephalus clans A Eguiguren, E Pirotta, M Cantor, Luke Edward Rendell, H Whitehead
Marine Ecology Progress Series 2019 vol. 609 pp. 257-270
Migratory convergence facilitates cultural transmission of humpback whale song Clare Owen, Luke Edward Rendell, Rochelle Constantine, Michael J. Noad, Jenny Allen, Olive Andrews, Claire Garrigue, M. Michael Poole, David Donnelly, Nan Hauser, Ellen Clare Garland
Royal Society Open Science 2019 vol. 6
Sperm Whale: The Largest Toothed Creature on Earth Mauricio Cantor, Shane Gero, Hal Whitehead, Luke Edward Rendell
2019 pp. 261-280
The reach of gene-culture coevolution in animals Hal Whitehead, Kevin Neville Laland, Luke Edward Rendell, Rose Thorogood, Andrew Whiten
Nature Communications 2019 vol. 10
Cultural Transmission Nicholas Andrew Roderick Jones, Luke Edward Rendell
Innovation and cumulative culture through tweaks and leaps in online programming contests Ned Gulley, Kevin Neville Laland, Luke Edward Rendell
Nature Communications 2018 vol. 9
Kinship and association do not explain vocal repertoire variation among individual sperm whales or social units Christine M. Konrad, Timothy R. Frasier, Luke Edward Rendell, Hal Whitehead, Shane Gero
Animal Behaviour 2018 vol. 145 pp. 131-140
Presence of an audience and consistent interindividual differences affect archerfish shooting behaviour Nicholas Andrew Roderick Jones, Michael Munro Webster, Christopher Neal Templeton, Stefan Schuster, Luke Edward Rendell
Animal Behaviour 2018 vol. 141 pp. 95-103
Social learning strategies Rachel Kendal, Neeltje Boogert, Luke Edward Rendell, Kevin Neville Laland, Michael Munro Webster, Patricia Jones
Trends in Cognitive Sciences 2018 vol. 22 pp. 651-665
Tail walking in a bottlenose dolphin community M. Bossley, A. Steiner, P. Brakes, J. Shrimpton, C. Foster, Luke Edward Rendell
Biology Letters 2018 vol. 14
The challenge of habitat modelling for threatened low density species using heterogeneous data Ana Maria Canadas, Natacha Aguilar de Soto, M. Aissi, A. Arcangeli, M. Azzolin, A. B-Nagy, G Bearzi, I. Campana, C. Chicote, Cedric Cotte, R. Crosti, L David, A. Di Natale, A. Frantzis, P. Garcia, M. Gazo, R. Gutierrez-Xarxa, D. Holcer, S. Laran, G. Lauriano, T Lewis, A. Moulins, B. Mussi, G. Notarbartolo di Sciara, Simone Panigada, X. Pastor, E. Politi, M. Pulcini, J.A. Raga, Luke Edward Rendell, M. Rosso, P. Tepsich, J. Tomás, M. Tringali, Th. Roger
Ecological Indicators 2018 vol. 85 pp. 128-136
Using agent-based models to understand the role of individuals in the song evolution of humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) Michael Mcloughlin, Ellen Clare Garland, Simon Ingram, Alexis Kirke, Michael J Noad, Luke Edward Rendell, Eduardo Miranda
Music & Science 2018 vol. 1
Whale and dolphin behavioural responses to dead conspecifics Giovanni Bearzi, Dan Kerem, Nathan B. Furey, Robert L. Pitman, Luke Edward Rendell, Randall R. Reeves
Zoology 2018 vol. 128 pp. 1-15
Categorizing click trains to increase taxonomic precision in echolocation click loggers Kate Brookes, Luke Edward Rendell
Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 2017 vol. 142 pp. 863-877
Insights into Blainville's beaked whale (Mesoplodon densirostris) echolocation ontogeny from recordings of mother-calf pairs Charlotte Dunn, John Durban, Jessica Shaffer, David Moretti, Peter Lloyd Tyack, Luke Edward Rendell
Marine Mammal Science 2017 vol. 33 pp. 356-364
Short first click intervals in echolocation trains of three species of deep diving odontocetes Charlotte Dunn, Peter Lloyd Tyack, Patrick Miller, Luke Edward Rendell
Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 2017 vol. 141 pp. 900-907
Social Evolution and the collective brain Kevin Neville Laland, Luke Edward Rendell
Trends in Ecology and Evolution 2017 vol. 32 pp. 625-626
Song hybridization events during revolutionary song change provide insights into cultural transmission in humpback whales Ellen Clare Garland, Luke Edward Rendell, M. Michael Poole, Michael J. Noad
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 2017 vol. 114 pp. 7822-7829
The devil is in the detail Ellen Clare Garland, Luke Edward Rendell, Matthew Lilley, M. Michael Poole, Jenny Allen, Michael J. Noad
Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 2017 vol. 142 pp. 460-472
Adapting a computational multi agent model for humpback whale song research for use as a tool for algorithmic composition Michael Mcloughlin, Simon Ingram, Luke Edward Rendell, Alexis Kirke, Ellen Clare Garland, Michael Noad, Eduardo Miranda
2016 pp. 274-280
Apparent source levels and active communication space of whistles of free-ranging Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins (Sousa chinensis) in the Pearl River Estuary and Beibu Gulf, China Zhi-Tao Wang, Whitlow W. L. Au, Luke Edward Rendell, Ke-Xiong Wang, Hai-Ping Wu, Yu-Ping Wu, Jian-Chang Liu, Guo-Qin Duan, Han-Jiang Cao, Ding Wang
PeerJ 2016 vol. 4 pp. 1-38
Cultural turnover among Galápagos sperm whales Mauricio Cantor, Hal Whitehead, Shane Gero, Luke Edward Rendell
Royal Society Open Science 2016 vol. 3
Individual, unit and vocal clan level identity cues in sperm whale codas Shane Gero, Hal Whitehead, Luke Edward Rendell
Royal Society Open Science 2016 vol. 3
Mediterranean sperm whales, Physeter macrocephalus Luke Edward Rendell, Alexandros Frantzis
2016 pp. 37-74
Novel application of a quantitative spatial comparison tool to species distribution data Esther Lane Jones, Luke Edward Rendell, Enrico Pirotta, Jed Long
Ecological Indicators 2016 vol. 70 pp. 67-76
Experimental evidence for the co-evolution of hominin tool-making teaching and language N. T. Uomini, Luke Edward Rendell, Hannah M Lewis, Catharine Penelope Cross, Cara Louise Evans, R. Kearney, I. de la Torre, Andrew Whiten, Kevin Neville Laland
Nature Communications 2015 vol. 6
First Report of Killer Whales Harassing Sperm Whales in the Gulf of Mexico Amy Whitt, Melody Baran, Maurice Bryson, Luke Edward Rendell
Aquatic Mammals 2015 vol. 41 pp. 252-255
Nothing in Human Behavior Makes Sense Except in the Light of Culture Catharine Penelope Cross, Luke Edward Rendell
Oceanic societies Shane Gero, Luke Edward Rendell
2015 pp. 139-149
The cultural lives of whales and dolphins Hal Whitehead, Luke Edward Rendell
A new song recorded from blue whales in the Corcovado Gulf, Southern Chile, and an acoustic link to the Eastern Tropical Pacific Susannah J. Buchan, Rodrigo Hucke-Gaete, Luke Edward Rendell, Kathleen M. Stafford
Endangered Species Research 2014 vol. 23 pp. 241-252
Abundance and movements of sperm whales in the western Mediterranean basin Luke Edward Rendell, S. Simião, J. M. Brotons, S. Airoldi, D. Fasano, A. Gannier
Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 2014 vol. 24 pp. 31-40
Assessing sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus) movements within the western Mediterranean Sea through photo-identification Eva Carpinelli, Pauline Gauffier, Philippe Verborgh, Sabina Airoldi, Léa David, Nathalie Di-Méglio, Ana Maria Canadas, Alexandros Frantzis, Luke Edward Rendell, Tim Lewis, Barbara Mussi, Daniela Silvia Pace, Renaud De Stephanis
Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 2014 vol. 24 pp. 23-30
The behavioral ecologist's essential social networks cookbook--comment on Pinter-Wollman et al. Luke Edward Rendell, Shane Gero
Behavioral Ecology 2014 vol. 25 pp. 257-258
Cultural memory Kevin Neville Laland, Luke Edward Rendell
Current Biology 2013 vol. 23 pp. R736-R740
Cultural transmission Jery Barkow, Rick O'Gorman, Luke Edward Rendell
2013 vol. 1 pp. 154-158
Mid-frequency broadband sounds of Blainville's beaked whales Charlotte Dunn, Darren Talbot, Ian Boyd, Luke Edward Rendell
Bioacoustics 2013 vol. 22 pp. 153-163
Network-Based Diffusion Analysis Reveals Cultural Transmission of Lobtail Feeding in Humpback Whales Jennifer Allen, Mason Weinrich, Will Hoppitt, Luke Edward Rendell
Science 2013 vol. 340 pp. 485-488
Are the new mass media subverting cultural transmission? Jerome H. Barkow, Rick O'Gorman, Luke Edward Rendell
Review of General Psychology 2012 vol. 16 pp. 121-133
Can Genetic Differences Explain Vocal Dialect Variation in Sperm Whales, Physeter macrocephalus? Luke Edward Rendell, Sarah Mesnick, Merel Dalebout, Jessica Burtenshaw, Hal Whitehead
Behavior Genetics 2012 vol. 42 pp. 332-343
Foraging dives of sperm whales in the north-western Mediterranean Sea Alexandre Gannier, Estelle Petiau, Violaine Dulau, Luke Edward Rendell
Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom 2012 vol. 92 pp. 1799-1808
Mental time travel, memory and the social learning strategies tournament Laurel Fogarty, Luke Edward Rendell, Kevin Neville Laland
Learning and Motivation 2012 vol. 43 pp. 241-246
Multilevel Societies of Female Sperm Whales (Physeter macrocephalus) in the Atlantic and Pacific: Why Are They So Different? Hal Whitehead, Ricardo Nuno Antunes, Shane Gero, Sarah N.P. Wong, Daniel Engelhaupt, Luke Edward Rendell
International Journal of Primatology 2012 vol. 33 pp. 1142-1164


The Secretary
Scottish Oceans Institute
Institiud Chuantan na h-Alba
Gatty Marine Laboratory
East Sands St Andrews
KY16 8LB

tel: +44 (0) 1334 463472
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