Profile

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 orcid.org/0000-0002-1121-9142

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.

Book
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

Research
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

Alumni
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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Research Overview:

"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

 Follow me on Twitter: @_lrendell

ResearcherID: G-2594-2010

orcid.org/0000-0002-1121-9142 


I am a Reader in Biology 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, Cait Newport, Christopher N. Templeton, Stefan Schuster, Luke Rendell (2020) Cognitive styles: speed–accuracy trade-offs underlie individual differences in archerfish. Animal Behaviour DOI: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2019.11.019.

Individuals exhibit consistent differences in behaviour and related cognitive performance. ‘Cognitive styles’-based hypotheses suggest the trade-off between speed and accuracy is an important factor where an individual's behavioural traits and linked decision speeds may account for its cognitive performance. The expected relationship between accuracy and decision speed, however, is not always clear and some studies have suggested that faster individuals do not suffer the expected cost to accuracy. We trained archerfish, Toxotes chatareus, to shoot at artificial targets for food, and then conducted a visual discrimination study to test the cognitive styles hypothesis. As expected, archerfish showed repeatable differences in latency to shoot and consistently fast individuals were quicker to achieve initial learning criteria than slower individuals. Repeated tests revealed an inverse relationship between discrimination accuracy and speed, with slower individuals having greater accuracy in initial trials on each day, supporting the cognitive styles hypothesis. Taken together, our results support the hypothesis that speed–accuracy trade-offs can underlie some observed interindividual differences in cognition.

 

Enrico Pirotta, José María Brotons, Margalida Cerdà, Sanne Bakkers, Luke E. Rendell (2020) Multi-scale analysis reveals changing distribution patterns and the influence of social structure on the habitat use of an endangered marine predator, the sperm whale Physeter macrocephalus in the Western Mediterranean Sea. Deep Sea Research Part I DOI: 10.1016/j.dsr.2019.103169. 

The habitat use of marine megafauna emerges from the complex interplay between access to patchy and variable food resources and several intrinsic biological factors, such as the interaction with conspecifics and offspring care, resulting in dynamic distribution patterns. In this study, we used monitoring data collected over two study periods (2003–2008 and 2012–2018) to assess the habitat use, trend in local occurrence, and change in distribution of sperm whales, Physeter macrocephalus, around the Balearic Islands (Spain), one of the few recognised breeding and feeding grounds for the ‘Endangered’ population in the Mediterranean Sea. Results suggest that overall the occurrence of sperm whales in the area has been increasing over time. Animals were found to associate with distinct bathymetric features, but the mechanisms generating these relationships, and the underlying oceanographic processes within this habitat, remained uncertain. Sperm whale distribution also underwent a significant shift between the two study periods, with an increased occurrence in the Mallorca channel and north of Menorca, which further points towards a dynamic use of the broader bathymetric range preferred around the archipelago. Finally, our analyses highlighted that single animals and groups used areas with different characteristics, with groups preferring deeper, warmer waters characterised by lower sea level anomaly, which resulted in some fine-scale spatial segregation. The results of this study shed light on the mechanisms underpinning the biogeography and complex social system of the species, and support the design of targeted conservation measures in this important breeding and feeding ground.

 

Book
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

Research

Sperm whale society and ecology
I have been studying the ecologycommunication 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.

Learning in archerfish
Archerfish have the highly specialised hunting tactic of shooting down prey with water jets. The dexterity and accuracy with which they do this has made them a model system in visual cognition. We are studying their shooting behaviour and learning to understand how this adaptation has interacted with their cognition.

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.

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.

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.

Outreach

We value outreach work highly. Here are some links to some recent activities that myself and other lab members have been involved with: 

https://research.wp.st-andrews.ac.uk/2020/03/19/humpback-whales-remixed/

https://www.dundeesciencecentre.org.uk/sea-symphonieshttps://synergy.st-andrews.ac.uk/seasymphonies/

https://events.st-andrews.ac.uk/events/fringe-of-gold-biomusic/

 

Science without borders!

An approach to academic life: 12 guidelines for survival

 

Alumni

Dr Luca Lamoni completed his PhD "The role of individual behaviour in the collective cultural evolution of humpback whale songs” in 2018

Dr Ellen Garland held her Newton International Fellowship in our group from 2015 to 2017.

Dr Kaitlin Palmer completed her PhD "Large-Scale and Long-Term Passive Acoustic Monitoring of Coastal Bottlenose Dolphins" in 2017

Dr Elena Miu completed her PhD “Understanding human culture : theoretical and experimental studies of cumulative culture” in 2017

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

 

 

20 (of 100 /dk/atira/pure/researchoutput/status/published available) for ler4 (source: University of St Andrews PURE)
Please click title of any item for full details

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
Stable isotopes suggest fine-scale sexual segregation in an isolated, endangered sperm whale population E. Pirotta, M Vighi, J.M. Brotons, E Dillane, M Cerdà, Luke Edward Rendell
Marine Ecology Progress Series 2020 vol. 654 pp. 209-218
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
2018
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

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