A new tune from the Humpback songbook

Humpback in singing position

Humpback in singing position.

Humpback whales from the same ocean usually sing the same songs, yet according to a recent study, pods from opposite sides of the Indian Ocean are wailing a different tune.

The study, published in the January edition of Marine Mammal Science is based on research collected in 2006. Scientists from the Wildlife Conservation Society and Columbia University recorded the songs of humpback whales in three locations along Western Australia and two locations close to Madagascar. They found humpbacks off Australia’s west coast sing very different songs than those off the coast of Madagascar.

Lead author of the study, Anita Murray, says it’s still a mystery why these whales sing different songs even though they are from the same ocean basin. It could suggest humpbacks from other oceans, such as the South Pacific, are mixing with humpbacks in the Indian Ocean. If this was the case, this mixing between oceans would be unique to the Southern Hemisphere says Murray.

Humpback whales are famous for their singing abilities. Their tunes, usually sung by whales,  are a series of wails, moans and shrieks that are repeated in cycles lasting up to 30 minutes. Click here to listen to a whale song recorded off the coast of Madagascar.

According to the World Wildlife Foundation, humpback whales are an endangered species. Information on how whale songs are exchanged could help conservationists protect these migratory channels in the future.

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