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

    Well, duh! Of *course* the male humpbacks are changing it up! What female wants the same-old song in a male...whether a humpback or human?

    April 15, 2011 at 2:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • whale-y

      haha banasy you're too much

      April 15, 2011 at 11:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      Perhaps they are changing their song because they are inhaling more oil, and more of them are dying off so they need to crank up the volume. It could be a prelude to war – against those destroying their way of life.

      April 16, 2011 at 1:31 am | Report abuse |
  2. Cesar

    I think its the other way, banasy

    April 15, 2011 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Mmmmm

    Even the whales know without a new song and dance ya don't have a chance!

    April 15, 2011 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Jazzzzzzz

    Now I see your ATTRACTION Banasy

    April 15, 2011 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
  5. banasy

    @jazz... Hi hon!

    April 15, 2011 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jazzzzzzz


      April 15, 2011 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Cesar

    @Cesar of 3:02: Shut up stupid.

    April 15, 2011 at 4:22 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Cesar

    @banasy: Hi hon

    April 15, 2011 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Cesar

    @Mmmmm: Hi Hon

    April 15, 2011 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Cesar

    @Cesar.. Hi hon

    April 15, 2011 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Cesar

    @Cesar of 4:50: stop using my name stupid a/ss

    April 15, 2011 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
  11. banasy


    @Jazz: I only posted the first post. Anyone who read last night's blog would know what I didn't know then: that you don't like being called "hon". Like I said, I didn't know. Trolls are out.

    @Mmmmm: you got that right!

    April 15, 2011 at 5:16 pm | Report abuse |
  12. banasy

    @Cesar: back at you, hon! 😉

    April 15, 2011 at 5:17 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Cesar

    @jazzzzz..... Hi Hon, Hon, Hon, Hon, Hon

    April 15, 2011 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Jimmy

    @jazz..... Hi, r u?

    April 15, 2011 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Cesar

    @Jazzzz: I did not post at 5:21

    April 15, 2011 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
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