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.

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


    @joey: how are you, hon? I don't understand it either, but it's all good. No worries, here!

    @Mmmmm: that's why I came up with it...for just those kinds of moments! I used that as my siggy for years on another site. Enjoy!

    April 15, 2011 at 9:56 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Mmmmm

    🙁 this is really putting a damper on the whalesongs....cmon you guys...cheer up!

    April 15, 2011 at 9:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mmmmm

      Go Cesar! go Cesar! give us a whalesong...

      April 15, 2011 at 10:08 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Thomas

    Whale, whale,(like downtown,downtown), whale whale, if you happen to be, on the edge of the sea, you can see me swim, whale, whale, etc.... Made for Mmmmm, with love, hon!!!

    April 15, 2011 at 10:14 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Thomas

    See all the ships, and swim faster than them, its all fun and sun, downtown,.etc...

    April 15, 2011 at 10:19 pm | Report abuse |
  5. joey

    Hey people!! I'm here. @thomas very nice keep on Mmmmmm @ whale ymx radio fm

    April 15, 2011 at 10:46 pm | Report abuse |
  6. banasy

    Just listen for the humpbacks
    Sing their song outside the city.
    Singing to the females
    "Baby, you are so darn pretty
    What can I do?"

    April 15, 2011 at 10:48 pm | Report abuse |
  7. banasy

    @joey: hey, hon. Whassup?

    April 15, 2011 at 10:49 pm | Report abuse |
  8. joey

    @Mmmmm making a song for you, I need two months to finish it, please wait for me. Listen to ! whale radio ! wxyz fm @chicago 117.3

    April 15, 2011 at 10:51 pm | Report abuse |
  9. joey

    Hi banasy, nice to hear ya, what's up babe, excuse me "Queen"

    April 15, 2011 at 10:54 pm | Report abuse |
  10. joey

    Nice song banasy, wish I could hear the female whales sing!!!!

    April 15, 2011 at 10:56 pm | Report abuse |
  11. banasy

    Same as it ever was, joey. And that's Queen *Bee*, thank you.

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

    Well, let me give it some thought... Thomas started the ball rolling with "Downtown".

    April 15, 2011 at 11:14 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Jazzzzzzzz - something fun for everyone

    The blogging entrance test – ♫♫♫ getting to know you... getting to know all about you... getting to like you...hoping you'll like me too♫♫♫

    1. What is your favorite word?
    2. What is your least favorite word?
    3. What turns you on?
    4. What turns you off?
    5. What sound or noise do you love?
    6. What sound or noise do you hate?
    7. What is your favorite curse word?
    8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
    9. What profession would you not like to do?
    10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

    April 15, 2011 at 11:22 pm | Report abuse |
  14. banasy

    How's this? (Continuation of the lyrics above)

    "Well, hey, humpboy
    You're one fine whale,
    If you can show me your blowhole
    You might get my tail,
    Let's all
    Whale, Whale!
    Things will be great if we
    Whale Whale
    Don't hesitate,
    We'll just
    Whale Whale
    The tale of the
    Humpback whales!"

    April 15, 2011 at 11:23 pm | Report abuse |
  15. comment police

    Why don't you "chatters" go play in a chat room somewhere and leave the comment section free of your drival.

    April 15, 2011 at 11:32 pm | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11