Navigation Links
Humpback whale songs spread eastward like the latest pop tune

AUDIO: Humpback whales have their own version of the hit single, according to a study reported online on April 14 in Current Biology, a Cell Press publication. At any given time...

Click here for more information.

Humpback whales have their own version of the hit single, according to a study reported online on April 14th in Current Biology, a Cell Press publication. At any given time within a population, male humpbacks all sing the same mating tune. But the pattern of the song changes over time, with the new and apparently catchy versions of the song spreading repeatedly across the ocean, almost always traveling from west to east.

"Our findings reveal cultural change on a vast scale," said Ellen Garland, a graduate student at The University of Queensland. Multiple songs moved like "cultural ripples from one population to another, causing all males to change their song to a new version." This is the first time that such broad-scale and population-wide cultural exchange has been documented in any species other than humans, she added.

Researchers from The University of Queensland in collaboration with members of the South Pacific Whale Research Consortium made the discovery by searching for patterns in whale songs recorded from six neighboring populations in the Pacific Ocean over a decade. This revealed a striking pattern of cultural transmission as whale songs spread from Australia to French Polynesia over the course of about two years.

"The songs started in the population that migrates along the eastern coast of Australia and then movedjust the songs, and probably not the whalesall the way to French Polynesia in the east," Garland said. "Songs were first learnt from males in the west and then subsequently learned in a stepwise fashion repeatedly across the vast region."

AUDIO: Humpback whales have their own version of the hit single, according to a study reported online on April 14 in Current Biology, a Cell Press publication. At any given time...

Click here for more information.

In fact, only one song ever moved to the west over the period of the study. Garland explained that the almost exclusive movement of songs to the east may be due to population size differences, because the population on the east coast of Australia is very large compared to all others in the area. The researchers suspect that either a small number of males move to other populations, taking their songs with them, or whales in nearby populations hear the new songs while they swim together on migration.

Most of the time, songs contain some material from the previous year blended with something new. "It would be like splicing an old Beatles song with U2," Garland said. "Occasionally they completely throw the current song out the window and start singing a brand new song."

Once a new song emerges, all the males seem to rapidly change their tune. Those songs generally rise to the "top of the chart" in the course of one breeding season and typically take over by the end of it.

Garland said it is not yet known why the humpbacks' songs spread in this way. In fact, why whales sing in the first place isn't fully known. Song is likely a mating display, but it is unclear whether the main effect is to attract females or to repel rival males.

Still, Garland suspects that the whales may want to stand out like a new pop song. "We think this male quest for song novelty is in the hope of being that little bit different and perhaps more attractive to the opposite sex," she said. "This is then countered by the urge to sing the same tune, by the need to conform."


Contact: Elisabeth Lyons
Cell Press

Related biology news :

1. Researchers discover new wintering grounds for humpback whales using sound
2. UBC researcher reveals humpback whales dining habits -- and costs
3. NOAA scientists find killer whales in Antarctic waters prefer weddell seals over other prey
4. Whale and dolphin death toll during Deepwater disaster may have been greatly underestimated
5. Oil giant plans new platform near feeding ground of critically endangered whale
6. Colossal fossil: Museums new whale skeleton represents decades of research
7. Blue whale-sized mouthfuls make foraging super efficient
8. Fleshing out the life histories of dead whales
9. Whale-inspired ocean turbine blades
10. Whale sharks do the math to avoid that sinking feeling
11. Researchers find first genetic evidence for loss of teeth in the common ancestor of baleen whales
Post Your Comments:
(Date:11/20/2015)... -- NXTD ) ("NXT-ID" or the "Company"), ... commerce market and creator of the Wocket® smart wallet, ... interviewed on The RedChip Money Report television ... Bloomberg Europe , Bloomberg Asia, Bloomberg Australia, and ... ) ("NXT-ID" or the "Company"), a biometric authentication company ...
(Date:11/19/2015)... , Nov. 19, 2015  Based on its in-depth ... Sullivan recognizes BIO-key with the 2015 Global Frost & ... Frost & Sullivan presents this award to the company ... to the needs of the market it serves. The ... meets and expands on customer base demands, the overall ...
(Date:11/19/2015)...  Although some 350 companies are actively involved in ... companies, according to Kalorama Information. These include Roche Diagnostics, Hologic, ... share of the 6.1 billion-dollar molecular testing market, according ... Molecular Diagnostic s .    ... by one company and only a handful of companies ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/25/2015)... ... November 25, 2015 , ... Jessica Richman and Zachary ... in their initial angel funding process. Now, they are paying it forward to ... early stage investments in the microbiome space. In this, they join other ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia , Nov. 24, 2015 ... the global contract research organisation (CRO) market. The ... to result in lower margins but higher volume ... With increased capacity and scale, however, margins in ... Contract Research Organisation (CRO) Market ( ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... N.J. (PRWEB) , ... November 24, 2015 , ... The ... the recipient of the 2016 USGA Green Section Award. Presented annually since 1961, the ... through his or her work with turfgrass. , Clarke, of Iselin, N.J., ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... , Nov. 24, 2015 Cepheid (NASDAQ: ... speaking at the following conference, and invited investors to ... NY      Tuesday, December 1, 2015 at 11.00 ... NY      Tuesday, December 1, 2015 at 11.00 ... Conference, New York, NY      Tuesday, ...
Breaking Biology Technology: