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)

    It would be really great if you guys stick to the article. What is interesting is that there is a bit of anthropomorphizing going on. Lots of assumptions. And no one has figured out what they are really saying. But the positive thing is that scientists do recognize that there is real communication going on. I look forward to the day when they crack the "code" and actually learn the language.

    April 16, 2011 at 12:30 am | Report abuse |
  2. wow

    Wow, I can't believe I read all the little troll comments. I think my iq actually went down as a result.

    April 16, 2011 at 12:36 am | Report abuse |
    • Jazzzzzzzz - something fun for everyone

      No kidding , try being one of the names that was high-jacked , not fun at all. I got it done to me just today.

      April 16, 2011 at 12:38 am | Report abuse |
  3. Jazzzzzzzz - something fun for everyone

    My co-worker is deaf. even though she speaks English it is broken. the of to and at , it's all kinda like she is putting plurals in where she shouldn't and so on, ECT.... Anyway, just another language to learn but with out the help of the Animals who speak it.

    April 16, 2011 at 12:36 am | Report abuse |
  4. John

    Why do you attack other people, jazzzzzzzzz? I read the stuff, and she didn't know, and you b-#@hed her out anyway and you talk smack about her and you get trolled all the time and so does she. Why would you think that her feelings cant be hurt just like yours. You want truth I think your mean to people when your mad at someone else and you take it out on friends.

    April 16, 2011 at 12:40 am | Report abuse |
  5. John

    Its being done to her to right now. Do you think its fun for her.

    April 16, 2011 at 12:42 am | Report abuse |
  6. TomJohn

    The first sentence of that article is the most awkward thing I have ever read.

    April 16, 2011 at 12:42 am | Report abuse |
  7. Randy Jackson

    I don't know Dawg, your tone was kinda pitchy. I like how you changed it up and tried to make it your own though

    April 16, 2011 at 12:43 am | Report abuse |
  8. Jazzzzzzzz - something fun for everyone

    You dont know me, I rarely get mad at anyone. I am NOT perfect and neither is she.

    April 16, 2011 at 12:43 am | Report abuse |
  9. Jazzzzzzzz - something fun for everyone

    I did ask her politely before not to call me that and when she did it today I was trying to make it clear that I really didn't want her to call me that, case closed. I am not going do this anymore , i know everyone will side with her all the time so I will be polite and move on.

    April 16, 2011 at 12:48 am | Report abuse |
  10. Jazzzzzzzz - something fun for everyone

    What it's NEVER going to be her mistake, only someone else. That's fine I will stay out of her way. Ok is everyone HAPPY?

    April 16, 2011 at 12:50 am | Report abuse |
  11. John

    I dont know you but I cab follow a thread and you were being mean to her and no ones perfect but you were being straight up s*i#ty to her she didn't know. You were mad at lucifer dude, and you took it out on other people. That's wrong, jazzzzz.

    April 16, 2011 at 12:52 am | Report abuse |
  12. Ruthann Adamsky

    Humpback whale song has been known to change over time. I heard researcher Roger Payne report on this over 30 years ago, which makes this hardly 'news".

    April 16, 2011 at 12:54 am | Report abuse |
  13. Jazzzzzzzz - something fun for everyone

    She knew , I ask her politley before not to do that. I will never be heard i guess. YOU DONT KNOW ME. I asked her before not to do it.

    April 16, 2011 at 12:56 am | Report abuse |
  14. John

    It was not her that called you hon, read what she wrote, anyhow its not a crime to be called hon, you should thank her for calling you like that. Never heard such a thing, you must have another reason and should apologize to her.

    April 16, 2011 at 12:56 am | Report abuse |
  15. Jazzzzzzzz - something fun for everyone

    I took it as her being mean to me, cause I asked her not to do it, now do you understand?

    April 16, 2011 at 12:57 am | Report abuse |
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