Kin relationships in cultural species of the marine realm: case study of a matrilineal social group of sperm whales off Mauritius island, Indian Ocean

Type Article
Date 2021-02
Language English
Author(s) Sarano Francois1, Girardet Justine2, Sarano Véronique1, Vitry Hugues3, Preud'Homme Axel3, Heuzey René4, Garcia-Cegarra Ana M.5, 6, Madon Bénédicte7, Delfour Fabienne8, Glotin Hervé9, Adam Olivier10, 11, Jung Jean-LucORCID2
Affiliation(s) 1 : Longitude 181, Valence, France
2 : Université de Brest, Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, CNRS, Sorbonne Université, ISYEB, Brest, France
3 : Marine Megafauna Conservation Organisation, Mauritius
4 : Label Bleu Production, Marseille, France
5 : Centro de Investigación de Fauna Marina y Avistamiento de Cetáceos, CIFAMAC, Mejillones, Chile
6 : Departamento de Ciencias Básicas, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad Santo Tomás, Antofagasta, Chile
7 : Université de Brest, AMURE - Aménagement des Usages des Ressources et des Espaces marins et littoraux - Centre de droit et d'économie de la mer, Plouzané, France
8 : Laboratoire d'Ethologie Expérimentale et Comparée EA 4443, Université Paris 13, Sorbonne Paris Cité, Villetaneuse, France
9 : Toulon University, Aix Marseille Université, CNRS, LIS, DYNI Team, Marseille, France
10 : Sorbonne Université, CNRS, Institut Jean Le Rond d'Alembert, UMR 7190, Paris, France
11 : Institute of Neurosciences Paris-Saclay, Bioacoustics Team, CNRS UMR 9197, Université Paris Sud, Orsay, France
Source Royal Society Open Science (2054-5703) (The Royal Society), 2021-02 , Vol. 8 , N. 2 , P. 201794 (14p.)
DOI 10.1098/rsos.201794
WOS© Times Cited 6
Keyword(s) sperm whale, social groups, kin relationships, DNA polymorphisms

Understanding the organization and dynamics of social groups of marine mammals through the study of kin relationships is particularly challenging. Here, we studied a stable social group of sperm whales off Mauritius, using underwater observations, individual-specific identification, non-invasive sampling and genetic analyses based on mitochondrial sequencing and microsatellite profiling. Twenty-four sperm whales were sampled between 2017 and 2019. All individuals except one adult female shared the same mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) haplotype—one that is rare in the western Indian Ocean—thus confirming with near certainty the matrilineality of the group. All probable first- and second-degree kin relationships were depicted in the sperm whale social group: 13 first-degree and 27 second-degree relationships were identified. Notably, we highlight the likely case of an unrelated female having been integrated into a social unit, in that she presented a distinct mtDNA haplotype and no close relationships with any members of the group. Investigating the possible matrilineality of sperm whale cultural units (i.e. vocal clans) is the next step in our research programme to elucidate and better apprehend the complex organization of sperm whale social groups.

Full Text
File Pages Size Access
Publisher's official version 14 913 KB Open access
Top of the page

How to cite 

Sarano Francois, Girardet Justine, Sarano Véronique, Vitry Hugues, Preud'Homme Axel, Heuzey René, Garcia-Cegarra Ana M., Madon Bénédicte, Delfour Fabienne, Glotin Hervé, Adam Olivier, Jung Jean-Luc (2021). Kin relationships in cultural species of the marine realm: case study of a matrilineal social group of sperm whales off Mauritius island, Indian Ocean. Royal Society Open Science, 8(2), 201794 (14p.). Publisher's official version : , Open Access version :