Info: Whalesong debate???

Michael Williamson (
Mon, 27 Feb 1995 16:22:17

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Date: Mon, 27 Feb 1995 15:49:11 -0500 (EST)
From: Michael Williamson <WHE_WILLIAM@FLO.ORG>
Subject: Info: Whalesong debate???
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From:	SMTP%"MARMAM@UVVM.BITNET" 27-FEB-1995 14:55:35.63
Subj:	Humpback song
Date:         Mon, 27 Feb 1995 13:18:00 EST
Reply-To:     Marine Mammals Research and Conservation Discussion
Sender:       Marine Mammals Research and Conservation Discussion
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From:         Phil Clapham <CLAPHAM.PHIL@SIMNH.SI.EDU>
Subject:      Humpback song
To:           Multiple recipients of list MARMAM <MARMAM@UVVM.BITNET>
Humpback song query:
  In a 1986 paper (Behav Ecol & Sociobiol 19: 309-312) Kevin Chu &
Patti Harcourt noted that "when aberrations in the song pattern occur
whales are almost invariably in the process of blowing...  One piece
of information which humpback songs contain, then, is when the singer
is breathing... (and) not breathing."
  I know from experience that there is a "breathing theme", or appears
to be, in all songs that I have heard over several years.  But do any
of you acousticians out there think that the conclusion above still
holds up after several more years of research and analysis of song?
Or have exceptions been discovered?
  This is interesting because of Kevin's suggestion that humpback song
may serve to convey information about the fitness (measured in dive
length and therefore breath holding ability) of the singer.  For this
to be true, there would have to be a) an indicator in the song of when
the whale is at the surface; b) an indicator of this that couldn't be
faked.  Note that the attentuation of the sound that accompanies surf-
acing may not be detectable at distance.
  If anyone would like to take this as an invitation to open up a
debate on the function of humpback song, I for one would be interested
in the exchange of views.
  Phil Clapham