Researchers have unlocked some of the secrets of the social structure of sperm whales. These whales can be difficult to track, because more than half of their time is spent hunting squid far below the surface. But now, research has shed some light on the social relationships of these beautiful animals.

Over the course of five years (2005-2010), researchers followed nine whale families and studied the social relationships between the females in the families. They found that while whales mostly spend time with their own families, females often pair up and swim with specific female relatives. Do you have a favorite aunt, or a sister you’re close with? Apparently, so do whales!

Another interesting finding is that some families spend a good amount of time together, and even babysit for each other. Based on the data gathered from this study, it looks like sperm whale families might share similarities with matriarchal elephant clans.

Research like this helps scientists understand these elusive animals, and hopefully will provide useful information to help with conservation efforts for the species. Read more about this research here.

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