Subject: Mating calls

Jennifer D. Philips (
Mon, 02 Nov 1998 09:47:38 -1000

>How does the call of males to females get them to mate with them?

That's a good questions.  The short answer is:  we do not know!  

But, the long answer is more interesting:  it seems that male whales,
especially species like the humpback whale, may generate very elaborate and
beautiful series of sounds that we have come to call "songs".  They sing
mostly on the breeding grounds, during times when they are trying to
attract females to them for mating.  So, why does this work?  Well, we
think that females may be able to judge the male by the content of his
song.  Think of it like this:  if the male is capable of producing such a
long, elaborate series of sounds the same as all other males in the area
during that season, but just a little better than the other males, he might
appear attractive to females.  Females might judge him to be fit and strong
and a good mate, a good father of her future baby.  Also, the song itself
might just serve as a beacon marker, telling the female where to find the
male.  Birds do this all the time, and in some cases very elaborately!  

Scientists have tried to figure out the purpose for the male song for a
long time, but even though we have good theories, we still do not know FOR
SURE if the male's song really does attract a female.  It's purpose might
also be to tell other males he is there and is stronger and better than
they are.  We are still trying to figure it out.  

I hope this answers your question.  Write again anytime.

Aloha -
Jen Philips


Jennifer D. Philips

Marine Mammal Research Program
HIMB, University of Hawaii at Manoa
PO Box 1106			
Kailua, HI  96734
voice:  (808) 247-5063
fax: (808) 247-5831