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

    @comment police – mmm wanna help me?

    April 15, 2011 at 11:35 pm | Report abuse |
  2. banasy

    @joey don't big huge mammals want to make you jiz_z all over the place too?

    April 15, 2011 at 11:37 pm | Report abuse |
  3. banasy

    @joey come lick my oozing wet puddy cat

    April 15, 2011 at 11:38 pm | Report abuse |
  4. banasy

    I will make you all hollah fo a dollah lol *wink*

    April 15, 2011 at 11:39 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Charlie Sheen

    I'm Idaho!

    April 15, 2011 at 11:39 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Charlie Sheen

    My whale's breath smells like whale food

    April 15, 2011 at 11:40 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Charlie Sheen

    The most popular whale song is Chuck Norris

    April 15, 2011 at 11:41 pm | Report abuse |
  8. banasy

    @charlie you must have been snacking from my sweetie shop lol

    April 15, 2011 at 11:42 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Charell Ntchwaidumela Williams

    One, I don't follow trends. Two, maybe these songs are changing just as the environment is changing, for the worse I may add. I think it's funny how we humans think we know every thing. The songs maybe telling us we're doomed.

    April 15, 2011 at 11:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Charlie Sheen

      Humans dont know everything. Only Chuck Norris does.

      April 16, 2011 at 2:18 am | Report abuse |
  10. Sarah

    AGREE VERY MUCH WITH "WHALE POLICE" woooops meant "COMMENT POLICE", HOWEVER, I liked the whale tunes! + what b/i/t/c/h doesn't like bein called hon? Grow the F/U/C/K up! Dummy!

    April 15, 2011 at 11:53 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Sarah

    PS, u don't like bein called hun? Is B/I/T/C/H better?

    April 16, 2011 at 12:03 am | Report abuse |
  12. Jazzzzzzzz - something fun for everyone

    @ Sarah , Have you ever thought there might be a very personal reason behind it?

    April 16, 2011 at 12:09 am | Report abuse |
  13. Sarah

    Is there? Tell me about it

    April 16, 2011 at 12:11 am | Report abuse |
  14. Jazzzzzzzz - something fun for everyone

    NO!

    April 16, 2011 at 12:19 am | Report abuse |
  15. Hilo, HI

    Another reason why it's wrong to kill them.

    April 16, 2011 at 12:23 am | Report abuse |
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