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. Tom

    Nice Post! You are Really Real, congrats.

    April 16, 2011 at 5:57 am | Report abuse |
  2. Peter

    Put your head in the toilet, keep it in for 15 mins, flush it and say good bye jazzzz. This is your best option, or, maybe we can take a S/H/I/T before you put your head in.

    April 16, 2011 at 6:11 am | Report abuse |
  3. raven

    So does this mean the Inside the Actors Studio survey is null and void ?

    April 16, 2011 at 6:13 am | Report abuse |
  4. Peter

    @banasy... Love you, Hon.. Feels soooo gooood to say and to hear hoooooonnnnnnn, from now on I'm using this word every time I see a lady, not to you j azzzzzz, you aren't one

    April 16, 2011 at 6:22 am | Report abuse |
  5. Mmmmm singing in the shower

    melody = any 50's song

    doop-doop-doop-do-dah-doop--doop-doop-do-dah-doop–doop-doop-dah-doop...(keep singin in the background)

    I was wail–ling
    on the bea-eee-eeech
    watching dah fish go by!

    I was wail-ing
    on the bea–eee-eeech-and
    met this whale of a guy!

    He say:
    Walla-walla momma, Walla-walla baby
    why yo song is a cry???

    Aye say:
    Walla-walla-wal-ler! Walla-walla-hol-ler!
    All the fish-es go by! !

    April 16, 2011 at 6:43 am | Report abuse |
  6. tomMM

    My guess would be that they're saying, "thanks for all the fish."

    April 16, 2011 at 7:44 am | Report abuse |
  7. skrilla Gorilla

    Peter where you been! You said you loved me you gay SOB. Y don't U call me honey.

    April 16, 2011 at 8:04 am | Report abuse |
  8. Peter

    OMG! Please hon, I'm still in gay love with. Can I call you?? I miss you skrilla Gorilla. I promise I will never look at another man.

    April 16, 2011 at 8:08 am | Report abuse |
  9. Skrilla Gorilla

    Peter sweetheart,I changed my number. Why don't I just drive down Santa Monica and say we go skinny dipping and have some make up fun honey. This is a private conversation so can I go over sweet heart?

    April 16, 2011 at 8:12 am | Report abuse |
  10. Peter

    Yes come over NOW! I'm on FIRE. Dress like the construction worker from the Village People. You know how I like that. Bring some lotion. Ta ta

    April 16, 2011 at 8:16 am | Report abuse |
  11. Allen

    Whales are adorable creatures. New tunes as new trends. I believe it. Smart fish. Some of you people need to get a life. What is this a soap oprah? John the straight guy, Jazzzz the trouble maker,really? the convincer,banasy the victim,and the rest of you. Geeesh.

    April 16, 2011 at 8:45 am | Report abuse |
  12. banasy

    Jazzzz, Good Morning hon

    April 16, 2011 at 9:01 am | Report abuse |
  13. Cesar

    @jazzzzzz. Hi hon

    April 16, 2011 at 11:18 am | Report abuse |
  14. Joey

    8:12 PM, April 15, was a phony joey, not I.
    I am the original Joey, and flattered to be imitated.
    I am not here often: very busy now. I've seen other copies of the real Joey, and thank you.

    April 16, 2011 at 11:53 am | Report abuse |
  15. baritard

    beat laugh i've had in a while.Thanks.
    Is this CNN,or morons are us?
    Whale song,or whale tail thong?LFMAO

    April 16, 2011 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
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