Years later, songs first heard from humpback whales in eastern Australia were picked up by whales off Ecuador, suggesting noise was passed between groups in the South Pacific
August 31, 2022
Songs made by humpback whales can be passed between groups, with different pods releasing their own songs to mimic those made by nearby animals.
A team from the University of San Francisco Quito in Ecuador recorded songs originally heard from humpback whales in eastern Australia, only to be picked up again in Ecuador a few years later, suggesting that noise was passed between groups across the South Pacific.
whale song Consists of structures similar to notes and symphonies in classical music. in 2011, Alan Garland University of St Andrews and her colleagues discover different themes (or song), possibly related to mating, can spread from groups near the eastern coast of Australia to groups in French Polynesia nearly 6,000 kilometers away.
Now, Garland and her colleagues in Ecuador show that the songs may have spread from French Polynesia to Ecuador’s western coast, a distance of nearly 8,000 kilometers. “This is the next major piece of this amazing cultural network puzzle that we’re doing in the South Pacific and the Southern Hemisphere,” Garland said.
To track the movement of songs, Garland and her team collected song data in the waters off French Polynesia and Ecuador between 2016 and 2018. They then ran two similarity analyses, calculations that measure how similar two songs are, to the various sounds produced by whales in the two regions.
They found three different songs in Polynesian waters and in Ecuador in 2016 and 2018, respectively, suggesting that the noise traveled eastward over a period of several years.
“These really rapid cultural changes are not seen in any other animal species, and it happened so quickly,” Garland said. “These new songs are of a completely different type— [a whale group’s new songs are] Composed of the same sounds, but arranged so differently, they literally pop out of the computer screen and out of the headphones for us to listen to. “
Garland thinks the songs spread when neighboring groups of whales pass within each other’s acoustic range as they migrate south between breeding and feeding grounds.
She hopes that, with the help of other research groups, the spread of whale songs can be traced back beyond the South Pacific Basin. “We’re all weaving together our own ocean basins to see if these dynamics are likely to occur beyond the South Pacific, and there are signs that they exist.”
A better understanding of the transmission of whale songs may help us understand the evolution of communication, including complex human language, the researchers say.
Journal references: Royal Society Open Science, DOI: 10.1098/rsos.220158
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