14,000 kilometers away they sing the same song

14,000 kilometers away they sing the same song

Humpback whales can swim approximately 9 miles and still sing the same song. And this is not just a simple tune: it can last for up to half an hour.

It has been known for some time that male humpback whales play whole songs. They are complex melodies that sometimes last a long time. The reason is not entirely clear, but oceanographers posit that they, like birds and humans, sing to seduce a female. What makes it so special is that the entire population sings the same song, with only a few differences. And if one humpback makes a bigger change to the song for unknown reasons, the others take over.

hit the ocean
As early as 1996, researchers found that songs sung by one group of whales were sometimes transcribed by whales from another group. In this new study, scientists found that songs transmit very precisely from group to group and can become hits across the Pacific Ocean.

Scientists whose study was published in the journal Royal Society of Open Science Noon, the SoundTrap recorder was used to record the sound of humpback whales in various places in the Pacific Ocean between 2016 and 2018. Some residents were also tracked by boat. And guess what: From the east coast of Australia to French Polynesia and Ecuador, humpback whales sang the same song. The researchers even found that two groups, one in French Polynesia and one near Ecuador, sang two completely different songs in 2016 and 2017, but in 2018 suddenly sang the same thing.

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one way street
It was a surprising discovery. Humpback songs are scattered all over the ocean, but they seem to go only in one direction, from west to east. This may be due to differences in group size: smaller groups copy the songs of larger groups. In the west the population will be greater. But this needs further investigation. Researchers don’t think humpback whales are the only animals that can transmit their songs. And they think there are undoubtedly more species that can do just that.

We talk about songs, but they are actually several recurring sentences, more commonly known as themes. Every whale on hand. Occasionally during the breeding season, all males replace their singing with a new melody line. It’s not clear why they do this, but previous research has shown that small changes can lead to great success.

Researchers also noted that one group copies songs from the other, but never before has a song traveled such a great distance: from eastern Australia to the coast of Ecuador about 14,000 km.

across the ocean
The best thing is for a song to travel across the entire Pacific Ocean to eventually join the indigenous people. Scientists believe this could be possible, but the song has changed quite a bit and won’t be recognized by the time you get back with the creators. “This study shows that songs first heard by Western groups can traverse the entire South Pacific. It supports the possibility of a vocal culture transmission across the Southern Hemisphere that only rivals ours in size,” the researchers wrote.

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When the melodies are transferred is not entirely clear. Males can transfer their song as they search for food and migrate from one area to another during the summer months. Because they not only sing during the breeding season, but they also practice in the summer. It is precisely then that the different groups can meet each other.

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