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. Cesar

    @Jimmy: Hi Hon

    April 15, 2011 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
  2. raven

    @jazzy... Hi hon, don't worry, I love ya!!

    April 15, 2011 at 5:40 pm | Report abuse |
  3. raven

    hey all. and this is my first post. here we go again, i guess.

    April 15, 2011 at 7:13 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Cesar

    @raven: Are you the real raven? If so, Hi hon. If not, then #!!@+#!

    April 15, 2011 at 7:19 pm | Report abuse |
  5. raven

    Yes Cesar the 2nd post was me and hi !! and thanks for hon-ing me , I was feelin left out. i also miss bein blessed by clem pashni,member him ??

    April 15, 2011 at 7:23 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Cesar

    Yes I do remember. I've seen a lot of hi-jacking going on. See you around- bye (hon-ing you, lol)

    April 15, 2011 at 7:48 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Thomas

    @raven.... Hi hon, how ya doin? love ya, hon!!

    April 15, 2011 at 7:52 pm | Report abuse |
  8. raven

    Aw Thomas, Thanks!

    April 15, 2011 at 7:56 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Thomas

    @raven.. What's going on with jazz? Talk to me babe, saw your post, talk to me, maybe I can help out my friend...!

    April 15, 2011 at 7:57 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Mmmmm

    hey peoples! Oh you all are just happy little larks...I like "Hon" too, back that up with some chewing gum and you'll sound really friendly and waitressly(lol) least it's better than being call Hun...too bad there any men on this thread capable of a whale song...really you guys are lazy disappointed! I want a whalesong sung on this thread before the night is over...

    April 15, 2011 at 8:12 pm | Report abuse |
  11. joey

    Who's the Queen Bee? Jazz or banasy, I don't know why you fight, please explain someone, I like jazz

    April 15, 2011 at 8:12 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Thomas

    @mmmmm Ill sing to you if you tell me what's goin on, hon....

    April 15, 2011 at 8:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mmmmm

      Okay Thomas Babey! (I'm snapping my fingers) give us a whale song...and uh don't attack the yachts or frighten the fish away...

      April 15, 2011 at 10:02 pm | Report abuse |
  13. banasy


    @Joey: I am not fighting with anyone. I used to call her "hon", as a term of endearment. I didn't know until last night that she didn't like it; she shouted at me to stop, so I said ok. When I went back on this morning, I saw that she was talking to Jimmy, and she said some things about me. Now, everybody else is taking that thread and being rather mean, and somebody posted as me while I was at work, calling her-you guessed it- hon. So she shouted at me again. Except it wasn't me. I don't know why explaining all this, except to say that I did nothing intentionally to hurt her, but people will think what they want to think. Whatever. Not the first time I've been hijacked, and believe me, I've been called much, much worse than hon. It's the nature of the internet, I guess. As Phil would say: (shrug).

    April 15, 2011 at 8:43 pm | Report abuse |
  14. banasy

    And I like Jazz, too. I thought we got along well and considered her an online friend 'til I read this morning's thread.

    And I'm not the Queen Bee. I'm the Godess of Whine. 😉

    Hi, raven! Sista, sista!!

    April 15, 2011 at 8:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mmmmm

      The goddess of whine...I like that...I'm keeping that phrase for mad moments!

      April 15, 2011 at 9:49 pm | Report abuse |
  15. joey

    @banasy. Thanks but I think hon is a beatiful word to say to someone, I would love it if you call me hon. Don't know why all the fuzz.

    April 15, 2011 at 8:50 pm | Report abuse |
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