Nope. Ain’t humpback whales making these tunes…


Click to enlargeKit Kovacs/Norwegian Polar Institute

❝ Spring is the time of year when birds are singing throughout the Northern Hemisphere. Far to the north, beneath the ice, another lesser-known concert season in the natural world is just coming to an end.

A University of Washington study has published the largest set of recordings for bowhead whales, to discover that these marine mammals have a surprisingly diverse, constantly shifting vocal repertoire.

❝ “If humpback whale song is like classical music, bowheads are jazz,” said lead author Kate Stafford, an oceanographer at the UW’s Applied Physics Laboratory. “The sound is more freeform. And when we looked through four winters of acoustic data, not only were there never any song types repeated between years, but each season had a new set of songs…”

“We were hoping when we put the hydrophone out that we might hear a few sounds,” Stafford said of the earlier study. “When we heard, it was astonishing: Bowhead whales were singing loudly, 24 hours a day, from November until April. And they were singing many, many different songs.”

Click through to the complete article. I’ve been lucky enough to know a few folks working on research like this. A delight. A service to this planet and some of the species living here.

13 thoughts on “Nope. Ain’t humpback whales making these tunes…

  1. Herman says:

    “Right Whales Seem to Think before They Speak” (Scientific American 4/9/18) https://www.scientificamerican.com/podcast/episode/right-whales-seem-to-think-before-they-speak/
    “Can anyone save the North Atlantic right whale? A group of South Shore lobstermen say they know what the answer is and they have banded together to try to do it, but they need help.” )Boston Globe 4/11/18) https://www.bostonglobe.com/magazine/2018/04/11/can-anyone-save-north-atlantic-right-whale/iS76fBOUn9PdnL9LySgmhN/story.html
    Meanwhile: “A few miles off the coast of the rapidly warming Antarctic Peninsula, scientists are getting their first-ever detailed look at one of the most mysterious mammals on the planet, minke whales. https://grist.org/article/a-mysterious-whale-species-swims-in-warming-waters/ Smaller cousins of the mammoth blue whale, the elusive minkes have remained mostly out of reach in the deep fjords of the icy Antarctic. It wasn’t until earlier this month that a team of scientists using an array of drones, suction-cap tags, and whale-mounted video cameras uncovered some basic facts about the species, such as their average size and how they moved. They discovered that minkes, long thought to be loners, are outgoing and social. They found out that minkes had spots.” (includes video and still photos)

  2. Update says:

    Populations of humpback whales living in the Southern Ocean near Antarctica could be rebounding, new research suggests. https://news.mongabay.com/2018/05/humpback-whales-near-antarctica-making-a-comeback-study-finds/ See also Royal Society Open Science “High pregnancy rates in humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) around the Western Antarctic Peninsula, evidence of a rapidly growing population” http://rsos.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/5/5/180017

    • Hope says:

      A population of humpback whales in the South Atlantic has rebounded from the brink of extinction. (University of Washington) https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-10/uow-hwp102119.php A new study co-authored by Grant Adams, John Best and André Punt from the University of Washington’s School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences shows the western South Atlantic humpback (Megaptera novaeangliae) population has grown to 25,000. Researchers believe this new estimate is now close to pre-whaling numbers.
      The findings were published Oct. 16 in the journal Royal Society Open Science.

  3. Mike says:

    Incredibly rare ‘megapod’ of more than 100 humpback whales surrounds boat off coast of Australia https://www.cnn.com/2021/09/14/australia/nsw-humpback-whale-megapod-intl-hnk/index.html
    “David M. Baker, Associate Professor at the Swire Institute of Marine Science at the University of Hong Kong, said humans are “competing with (whales) directly for food,” and we are changing where food is available “by altering the global climate.”
    “Global fisheries deplete the very things that whales eat, like schooling fish and krill and could severely undermine their recovery,” he said. “Climate change is also impairing recovery of some species, including critically endangered right whales in the North Atlantic.”

    Video of the megapod: https://www.instagram.com/p/CTwFpwMDYC0/

  4. What if says:

    Are We on the Verge of Chatting with Whales?
    An ambitious project is attempting to interpret sperm whale clicks with artificial intelligence, then talk back to them. https://www.hakaimagazine.com/features/are-we-on-the-verge-of-chatting-with-whales/
    “The clicks of sperm whales are ideal candidates for attempting to decode their meanings—not just because, unlike continuous sounds that other whale species produce, they are easy to translate into ones and zeros. The animals dive down into the deepest ocean depths and communicate over great distances, so they cannot use body language and facial expressions, which are important means of communication for other animals. “It is realistic to assume that whale communication is primarily acoustic,” says Bronstein. Sperm whales have the largest brains in the animal kingdom, six times the size of ours. When two of these animals chatter with each other for an extended period of time, shouldn’t we wonder whether they have something to say to each other? Do they give each other tips on the best fishing grounds? Do whale moms exchange stories about raising their offspring, like their human counterparts? It’s worth trying to find out, say the CETI researchers.”

  5. Mike says:

    “Sound reveals giant blue whales dance with the wind to find food” (Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute) https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/966906
    “…Blue whales recognize when the wind is changing their habitat and identify places where upwelling aggregates their essential food—krill. For a massive animal weighing up to 150 tonnes (165 tons), finding these dense aggregations is a matter of survival.
    While scientists have long recognized that blue whales seasonally occupy Monterey Bay during the upwelling season, this research has revealed that the whales closely track the upwelling process on a very fine scale of both space (kilometers) and time (days to weeks).

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