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Behavior & Ritualisation

"Seen from space, the planet is a blue one. Seen from space, the planet is the world of the whale. And not of man.”
Heathcote Williams

"Seen from space, the planet is a blue one. Seen from space, the planet is the world of the whale. And not of man.”
Heathcote Williams

Interdisciplinary communication research on behavior in highly developed mammals, especially cetaceans (whales, dolphins, and porpoises) and humans. Ethological methods were used to observe animals and humans. New epistemological approaches were examined and used to provide greater insight into mammal behavior and cognition.







Free-range interaction research: I researched inter-species communication, collected field data, analyzed, and published the outcome of three field studies of short-finned pilot whales in the Atlantic off the Canary Islands in 1994, 1996, and 2001. These research results have contributed to a code of conduct and specific protective measures for short-finned pilot whales off the southwest coast of Tenerife. Collaborating with colleagues, we explored the intricacies of pod-specific calls among short-finned pilot whales, repertoires that are taught and learned. Observing and cataloging the physical underwater behaviors of the whales, we contributed to the understanding of how they explore their environment and interact – new information in the published literature, as their behavior was described mainly from surface observations hitherto. The inter-species communication research, conducted in immersive encounters with pilot whales, has been characterized by mutual interest and kinds of ritualized interactions, which have provided me with profound moments of beauty. 

Scheer, M., Hofmann, B., Behr, I.P. (2004). Ethogram of selected behaviors initiated by short finned pilot whales (Globicephala macrorhynchus) and directed towards human swimmers during open water encounters. Anthrozoös 17(3): 244-257. DOI: 10.2752/089279304785643267

Scheer, M. and Hofmann, B: The Dolphin Space Program, in: Krankendienst 1 (2004) 12–15, (German language).

Hofmann, B., Scheer, M. & Behr, I.P. (2004) Underwater behaviors of short-finned pilot whales (Globicephala macrorhynchus) off Tenerife. Mammalia 68(2-3): 221-224. Cover photography of volume 68(2-3). DOI: 10.1515/mamm.2004.020

Scheer, M., Hofmann, B. & Behr, I.P. (2003) Vocalizations of free-ranging short-finned pilot whales (Globicephala macrorhynchus ) off Tenerife: signal repertoire and characteristics. European Research on Cetaceans 17.


Scheer, M. Hofmann, B. & Behr, P.I. (1998a). Interactions between whale watching vessels and short-finned pilot whales (Globicephala macrorhynchus) off the southwest coast of Tenerife, Canary Islands: Behavioural implications. Reportto Viceconsejería de Medio Ambiente, 41 pages.

Scheer, M., Hofmann, B. & Behr, P.I. (1998b). Discrete pod-specific call repertoires among shortfinned pilot whales (Globicephala macrorhynchus) off the SW coast of Tenerife, Canary Islands. Abstract World Marine Mammal Science Conference, 20-24. January, Monaco by European Cetacean Society and Society for Marine Mammalogy.


Short-finned pilot whales underwater photographs by Behr, Hofmann and Scheer were published in 'Marine Mammals: Biology and Conservation' edited by Peter Evans and Toni Raga (2002).

Research results and photographs were published in the National Geographic magazines (Germany, Spain, South Korea, Israel).

Images: Field research, Copyright Behr, Hofmann, Scheer

PDF: Excerpts from field diaries of encounters with whales: Copyright: Behr, Diez, Hofmann, Scheer

Bianka Hofmann, Field Recording
Field Research, Copyright Behr, Hofmann and Scheer
Bianka-Hofmann-Copyright-Behr, Hofmann, Scheer.jpeg




My investigations extended beyond animal biology to encompass ritualized behaviors in humans, including religious ritualized behavior. From the perspective of behavioral biology, I examined the phenomenon of female genital mutilation, a traditional behavior justified religiously, yet denying females fundamental human rights.

Hofmann, B. (1998): Kann die verhaltensbiologische Beschreibung ritualisierten Verhaltens
dazu beitragen, religiös ritualisiertes Verhalten zu verstehen? Interdisciplinary diploma thesis (Comparative Religion, Biology).

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