Two of our favorite topics, alphabets and AI, have come together in a recently published paper in Nature Communications. “Contextual and combinatorial structure in sperm whale vocalisations” represents the identification of an “alphabet” of the sounds sperm whales use to communicate. Recordings of 8,719 sperm whale “codas” from 2005 to 2018 were analyzed by researchers using AI to identify and classify patterns. Interestingly, the researchers chose not to approach things through training an LLM on the whale sounds, but rather opted for algorithms to perform a more classical statistical analysis. As one researcher notes, the problems with LLM approaches is that they become something of a “black box” and much more complex.

The results are some 143 unique combinations of sound forming a sperm whale alphabet that the researchers hope to further decipher. A short news report below explains the project. We at The Scholarly Kitchen are looking forward to our future post announcing the first paper authored by an ocean-dwelling mammal.

David Crotty

David Crotty

David Crotty is a Senior Consultant at Clarke & Esposito, a boutique management consulting firm focused on strategic issues related to professional and academic publishing and information services. Previously, David was the Editorial Director, Journals Policy for Oxford University Press. He oversaw journal policy across OUP’s journals program, drove technological innovation, and served as an information officer. David acquired and managed a suite of research society-owned journals with OUP, and before that was the Executive Editor for Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, where he created and edited new science books and journals, along with serving as a journal Editor-in-Chief. He has served on the Board of Directors for the STM Association, the Society for Scholarly Publishing and CHOR, Inc., as well as The AAP-PSP Executive Council. David received his PhD in Genetics from Columbia University and did developmental neuroscience research at Caltech before moving from the bench to publishing.


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