Humpback whale song

From: Erich Hoyt (
Date: Fri Apr 06 2001 - 00:28:47 EDT

From: "John and Cathy Reinertson" <>
To: <>, <>
Subject: Humpback whale song
Date: Wed, Apr 4, 2001, 9:22 PM

Dr Hoyt;

I had the distinct pleasure of doing a whale watching trip off the Silver
Bank of the Dominican Republic in March.

I recorded 22 minutes of Humpback whalesong, some of it within twenty feet
of the singing whale, with a Sony Digital 8 Camcorder and an underwater
This records at near-CD quality and the songs recorded were clearer than the
ones posted at most of the websites I can find, and better than most I have
I can provide a copy to you for evaluation in Digital 8 format or as a CD
recorded on a CD-R drive and playable on a computer or most CD players if
you have any interest from a scientific or educational interest.

There are so few times that circumstance combines to allow this, I would
rather share than hoard the experience if you could use the CD for education
or science.

P.S. As an MD whose undergrad work was in zoology, whalesong sounds an
awfully lot like the songs of ungulates such as bugling elk, cattle sounds,
and has more than a passing resemblance to some of the elephant noises..
How certain is the data that suggests these sounds don't come from the
larynx?? just curiosity from someone who wonders.



Dear John,

Your trips sounds wonderful and the recordings too. I would love to hear
them on CD.

I agree with you about the sounds and their resemblance to cattle and
elephants. One of the leading researchers into humpback whale sounds Katy
Payne has more recently been involved with recording and analyzing the
sounds of elephants. She's recently written a book on her experiences going
from whales to elephants; I haven't read it but I suspect it will be of
great interest.

The larynx was originally thought to be the site of sound production in
cetaceans but experiments on live, phonating dolphins showed that the larynx
does not move during vocalizaions (Norris et al. 1971; Ridgway et al 1980);
instead there are structures in the nasal system including the nasal plug
and the elaborate nasal sac system which move when sound is produced,
although the exact site of the sound generation is still debated. All of
this is nicely summarized in Reynolds and Rommel's 1999 book Biology of
Marine Mammals (Smithsonian) and there are even more detailed summaries in
Au 1993, Cranford 1988, Cranford et al 1996, Heyning 1989, and Mead 1975
(all of these references can be found in the Reynolds and Rommel book).

With best wishes,

Erich Hoyt

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