THE mystery surrounding the songs of humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) has gotten deeper thanks to findings from researchers in the USA, Madagascar and Western Australia.
Published in the January 2012 edition of Marine Mammal Science, the study by Murray et al is the first to document whales within the same ocean basin singing almost completely different songs.
“This is an exception to what is usually found when comparing song from breeding sites within the same ocean during a breeding season,” says researcher Anita Murray, currently at University of Queensland’s Cetacean Ecology and Acoustics Laboratory.
“Males from breeding sites within the same ocean basin usually sing the same songmeaning they sing the same themes in the same thematic order.”
In fact, the whales monitored off the coasts of Madagascar and off Perth, Exmouth and Pender Bay only had one theme in common out of 11 recorded.
“Our study indicates the cultural transmission of song between whales from different breeding assemblages is not as clear as once believed,” says Ms Murray.
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