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Sperm Whales: Social Evolution in the Ocean Hardcover – August 1, 2003

ISBN-13: 978-0226895178 ISBN-10: 0226895173 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press; 1 edition (August 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226895173
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226895178
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,818,386 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

Famed in story as "the great leviathans," sperm whales are truly creatures of extremes. Giants among all whales, they also have the largest brains of any creature on Earth. Males can reach a length of sixty-two feet and can weigh upwards of fifty tons.

With this book, Hal Whitehead gives us a clearer picture of the ecology and social life of sperm whales than we have ever had before. Based on almost two decades of field research, Whitehead describes their biology, behavior, and habitat; how they organize their societies; and how their complex lifestyles may have evolved in this unique environment. Among the many fascinating topics he explores is the crucial role that culture plays in the life of the sperm whale, and he traces the consequences of this argument for both evolution and conservation. Finally, drawing on these findings, Whitehead builds a general model of how the ocean environment influences social behavior and cultural evolution among mammals as well as other animals.

The definitive portrait of a provocative creature, Sperm Whales will interest animal behaviorists, conservationists, ecologists, and evolutionary biologists as well as marine mammalogists.

About the Author

Hal Whitehead is the Killam Professor in the Department of Biology at Dalhousie University in Canada. He is the author of Voyage to the Whales and coeditor of Cetacean Societies: Field Studies of Dolphins and Whales, the latter published by the University of Chicago Press.

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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By C. F. W. Puhl on February 28, 2008
Format: Paperback
First things first: "Sperm Whales: Social Evolution in the Ocean" is a marvellously written in-depth account of every aspect of the sperm whale. I just loved the enthusiasm with which mr. Whitehead has written it. His professionalism is undoubted and his academic level is very high. But above all: he can write!
Some background info on myself: I am Dutch, English is not my mother tongue. I graduated from university, so I am quite capable of reading academic texts. I love reading English and have read quite a lot of books in that wonderful language. I have recently become more interested in marine life in general and marine mammals in specific.
What makes "Sperm Whales: Social Evolution in the Ocean" such a good book? I am not a marine mammal specialist, but I still considered the book quite readable. I admit it was not an easy read. Especially chapter 6 "Sperm Whale Societies", which is about concentrations, groups and social units, I thought very difficult and rather dry. The high level of references sometimes disturb the fluidity of the text. The book was very interesting and packed with information. In a fascinating way mr. Whitehead took me into the depths of the oceans along with these amazing animals. His level of writing is very academic, but his enthusiasm about these animals is reflected by almost each and every sentence. I highly recommend this book to all marine mammal enthusiasts.
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Format: Paperback
Sperm Whales: Social Evolution in the Ocean (2003), written by one of the leading experts on sperm whales, Hal Whitehead, is the result of decades of work on the behavior of sperm whales. It begins by describing the morphology of the sperm whale, particularly the peculiar anatomy of the spermaceti organ, which is used in echolocation. The book then gives a detailed account of the sperm whale's prey and predators (primarily killer whales), movements and migrations, the size, structure, and parameters of populations, behavior and vocalizations, the complex nature of sperm whale society and culture (which is compared to other K-selected animals, such as elephants), and finally sperm whales and their future. A number of black-and-white photographs, paintings, line drawings and diagrams as well as tables and figures illustrate various aspects of sperm whale social life and each chapter ends with a very useful summary of its contents. There are also "boxes" or interludes providing information on such topics as "The Sperm Whale in Print", "Interactions between Sperm Whales and Killer Whales" (which I found among the most interesting of the lot), and "A Week in the Life of a Sperm Whale Group". An appendix includes sections on examining carcasses, studying live animals, photo-identification and photographic measurement, recording sperm whale sounds, and genetics. The book also includes extensive references and an index. I consider this a seminal work in the field of cetology written by one of the foremost experts in the field. It is definitely a must read for those fascinated by these creatures.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Lee on January 1, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A fine book by one of the elders , of Sperm Whale research . Along with Richard Ellis's " The Great Sperm Whale " , we have caught up with serious and popular , knowledge of this my favorite creature . Now I wish a film could be made , as was done to introduce Bart in the film " Bears ". A read that you will enjoy and making lying in bed before sleep that much more filled with wonder . For what are they doing with their huge brains and massive selves ? Thank you to the authors . ,,,,,Lee H .
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jeronimo Sainz on June 24, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
the way Hal takes you through the life of spermwhales is amazing, it is built for everyone interested in serious spermwhale reading. Its not too complicated but it has the amount of ecology and maths you require for a nice understanding of the subject.

Completely recomendable.
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0 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Stig.dk on December 21, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As a great whalefan I bought this book with great expectations. But I was soon disappointed. The author deals with the subject in a very un-entertaining way. He comes up with a lot of diagrams, showing what whale said what sound at what island in 1987 and 1989. In another diagram we can see how long the sounds are at this and that islands waters in this or that year.
Unless you are a professor this is not fun at all. The only exiting chapter was the one, that about how spermwhales defend themselves against agressors.
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