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

eXTReMe Tracker

source: symbiosis

Research Overview:

I have previously worked mostly on wild cetaceans, but now I am developing theoretical investigations of the evolution of social learning strategies, as well as getting involved in experimental studies of learning. I am primarily interested in the evolution of social learning, communication systems and culture, but maintain broader based interests in ecology, behaviour and conservation.


20 (of 97 /dk/atira/pure/researchoutput/status/published available) for ler4 (source: University of St Andrews PURE)
Please click title of any item for full details

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
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