National Geographic photojournalist Brian Skerry has spent four decades photographing whales. Along the way, he has learned some surprising secrets about the world’s largest creatures.

You may see them as animals, but Skerry has come to think of them as beings with complex social impulses and structures that can be described as unique cultures.

On Thursday, he’ll talk about some of their quirks and cultural traits in a free Zoom webinar, “The Hidden Culture of Whales: A Conversation with Brian Skerry.”

Although whales are dominated by instinct, they’re also highly intelligent. Under one hypothesis, scientists link their brain size to their behaviors and social infrastructure, such as their cooperative hunting behaviors, their signature sounds and their ability to parent children that they didn’t bear.

Scientists are still untangling the interplay between nature and nurture in whale behavior, but the latest research continues to show a level of social behavior and intelligence that far surpasses most animal species.

In his lecture, Skerry will talk about how whales learn, adapt and communicate. He’ll also display some of his evocative marine photography.

The lecture coincides with National Geographic’s May cover story, the release of Skerry’s newest book, Secrets of the Whales, and a new series on Disney+ called “Secrets of the Whales.” The show, narrated by Sigourney Weaver, explores the social lives of orcas, humpbacks, belugas, narwhals and sperm whales. Filmmaker James Cameron is the executive producer.

The lecture is part of a New England Aquarium series, sponsored by the Lowell Institute, which has provided free lectures and films by ocean scientists and other experts for decades.

The event takes place between 6:30 and 7:30 p.m. Eastern. To join, visit thehiddencultureofwhales.splashthat.com and RSVP.