Humpback whales changing their tunes, study finds
A humpback whale breaches off Australia.
April 15th, 2011
01:34 PM ET

Humpback whales changing their tunes, study finds

Whether to keep up with keep up the coolest tunes or to stand out from the crowd, male humpback whales change their songs over time, researchers in Australia report.

Researchers had known that male humpbacks sing as part of courtship and mating behaviors. Now they think the whales may be mixing up their playlist to show off.

“We believe the song is continually changing because the males wish to be novel or slightly different to the male singing next to them," Ellen Garland, a doctoral student at the University of Queensland, said in a news release.

Other times, the whales may be picking up a tune they've heard before, sort of a sub-Pacific top 40.

“The way whales change their song can be compared to how humans follow fashion trends – someone starts a new trend, and before you know it, everyone starts wearing the same thing," Garland said.

The whale tunes move eastward across the Pacific, starting off in Australia and spreading to French Polynesia, according to the study.

“I noticed that the songs moved quite rapidly through the six populations, usually taking two years to spread all the way across the region,” Garland said.

The observed pattern and scope of cultural change is "unmatched in non-human culture," according to the university's news release.

The whales were studied over an 11-year period. The full study is published in the journal Current Biology.

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Filed under: Animals • Australia • Nature • Whales
soundoff (180 Responses)
  1. banasy


    Thanks Mmmmmm! This has been fun...I love making up silly songs.

    Hi, Joey, raven, Jazzzzz, Philip, Cesar, et-all.

    April 16, 2011 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Cesar

    I've got a hump on my back and I'm quite large from eating all that carnitas.

    April 16, 2011 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Cesar

    @Cesar 2:44: shut up stupid

    April 16, 2011 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
  4. jus sayin

    Thats enough Whale talk for me. What a bunch of Morons! lol

    April 16, 2011 at 6:40 pm | Report abuse |
  5. ed Bailey

    Males no matter what species have a switch in the brain, it turns on one circuit and shuts off ALL others! Now, RAVEN, fascination set in the first time I found out you were a lady. To keep me busy as a child my grandfather gave me the job of keeping Large black birds out of our small farm. Protect the food supply. Crows and Ravens are Sooo smart and crafty. They won every skirmish no mater what I tried. I spent 5 yrs in the woods of Europe and no difference, beautiful and smart beyond imagination. You have me humming RAVEN!

    April 16, 2011 at 8:53 pm | Report abuse |
  6. CNNListenUpAndPayAttention

    you are obviously absolving yourselves with your privacy policy. you should be paying attention and moderating these threads. this childish nonsense is on every thread here. it makes you CNN look bad.
    why can't there be a proper system in place, where people have to register to use these forums and provide a validated email address and also not allow s/n's to be changed? they pick a s/n that can't be changed and provide a email address you validate. when they get on here and use this as their private juvenile chatroom, then you ban them. most proper forums operate this way.
    CNN listen up and fix this. it's a serious disgrace and makes you look like fools.

    April 17, 2011 at 6:36 am | Report abuse |
  7. raven

    @ed Bailey, hello and Thank you! I like em too!tons of character,almost silly. its also the familial clan I belong to,which is why I use this name.

    April 17, 2011 at 7:14 am | Report abuse |
  8. chrissy

    hey there all my blogging buds! have really missed u all, not the bickering part tho. that part is sad. personnally tho i would like to hear some whale hip hop lol maybe with a lil hon thrown in

    April 18, 2011 at 12:12 am | Report abuse |
  9. King

    If inofmariton were soccer, this would be a goooooal!

    July 29, 2011 at 4:12 am | Report abuse |
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