Hauntingly Beautiful Whale Song is Used for Exploring

Study shows the songs are used to ‘see’ other whales.

Jan 18, 2022
Hauntingly Beautiful Whale Song is Used for Exploring | Study shows the songs are used to ‘see’ other whales.

Humpback whales sing hauntingly beautiful songs under the seas for all to hear. It’s been believed that these songs are designed to attract mates like the serenades of songbirds but new research found something very different.

A study from Buffalo University, in New York, about variation of humpback whale song published in the journal Learning & Behavior found that while reproduction plays a role, the primary reason for the whale song is for “seeing” other whales. As well as exploring their environment in much the same way land animals use their eyes.

The research was conducted by Eduardo Mercado III, a professor of psychology who has been studying whale song and supports the idea that it is a form of echolocation — like sonar –  that is used to explore the environment around them, according to a news release from Buffalo University.

About Humpback Whales
These huge marine mammals can grow to be 60 feet (18 meters) long and can weigh 40 tons (only half the size of blue whales) according toLive Science. These majestic creatures roam all over the world and summer where it is cold around Alaska or Antarctica and move to warmer areas in the winter.

The whales travel alone, or in pods of two or three other whales, and they can migrate around 3,000 miles (5,000 kilometers) between breeding and feeding areas.  They are best known for their haunting whale song. These songs can actually be heard 20 miles (30 kilometers) away.

Humpback Whale Songs
The whale songs of the Humpbacks are only sung by males according to Treehugger. The songs which consist of howls and cries are long and very complex usually lasting 10 to 20 minutes but are frequently repeated so it can go on for hours. Whales in the same area will all sing the same song but different groups will sing their own song.

“Humpback songs are rhythmic sequences of intense sounds that singers produce repetitively for multiple hours. There are lots of convergent signs that these sounds are being produced to generate echoes: ecological, neural, behavioral, and acoustic,” Mercado told Treehugger.

In fact, whales produce sounds that are both broadband and narrow band and are made in different parts of the whales’ mouth. It is the variation in the songs that convinced Mercado that reproduction was not the primary purpose.

Mercado believes that the whales may be altering their songs based on the situations they encounter. “The fact that they’re changing their songs so much, even within individual sessions, suggests they have more control than previously assumed,” he said in the press release. “It’s why we have to start hearing these songs from new perspectives if they’re to reveal features we otherwise never would have considered.”

Whatever the purpose, the songs of the humpback whales, shows the beauty of nature and all the planets’ creatures, both large and small.

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Bonnie has dedicated her life to promoting social justice. She loves to write about empowering women, helping children, educational innovations, and advocating for the environment & sustainability.