Humpback whale songs

From: Howard Garrett (
Date: Sun Dec 09 2001 - 14:01:32 EST

>Hello, Mr Garrett!
>I doing a work about humpback whales and I have question, which have been
hard to looking >up by my own:
>How do the sounds/songs that comes from the humpback whale contribute to
survival and >reproductive success?

>/Oscar Plogmark

The answer, or answers, to that question are still not fully resolved in
the cetological community. We don't yet know, for instance, whether the
famous songs heard in the mating and calving grounds are intended for
attracting females or for competing with other males. A presentation at the
biennial conference last week in Vancouver showed that males often visit
one another while one or the other are singing, usually with no apparent
aggressive behavior. The songs are intricate, rhythmical, long and complex,
so they require a lot of energy investment and are clearly important for
some social purposes, most likely involving mating, but their exact
adaptive role remains a mystery.

Some humpback calls are more easily understood however, for instance those
made as groups of humpbacks associate for cooperative lunge feeding in the
summer feeding areas. These calls seem to help coordinate behavior as they
concentrate the prey and move them toward the surface. Look for the work of
Fred Sharpe of Simon Fraser Univ for more on humpbacks' feeding calls and
strategies. His paper presented at the conference was titled: Social
Foraging of Alaskan Humpback Whales - It's Reciprocity, not Relatedness.

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