Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Humpback Whales Can Transmit Their Songs Across The Entire South Pacific


Scientists have discovered that humpback whales can transmit their songs throughout the whole of the South Pacific Ocean.

According to a new study in Royal Society Open Science, researchers Josephine Schuize, Judith Denkinger, Javier Ona, Michael Poole and Ellen Garland write:

“Cultural transmission of behaviour is an important aspect of many animal communities ranging from humans to birds. Male humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) sing a repetitive, stereotyped, socially learnt and culturally transmitted song display that slowly evolves each year.”

While most males within a population sing the same, slow-evolving song type, in the South Pacific, song “revolutions” have led to rapid and complete replacement of one song type by another introduced from a neighboring population, according to the scientists:

“Songs spread eastwards, from eastern Australia to French Polynesia, but the easterly extent of this transmission was unknown. Here, we investigated whether song revolutions continue to spread from the central (French Polynesia) into the eastern (Ecuador) South Pacific region.

“Similarity analyses using three consecutive years of song data (2016–2018) revealed that song themes recorded in 2016–2018 French Polynesian song matched song themes sung in 2018 Ecuadorian song, suggesting continued easterly transmission of song to Ecuador, and vocal connectivity across the entire South Pacific Ocean basin.

“This study demonstrates songs first identified in western populations can be transmitted across the entire South Pacific, supporting the potential for a circumpolar Southern Hemisphere cultural transmission of song and a vocal culture rivalled in its extent only by our own.”

Check out the full study here.

John Liang
John Liang
John Liang is the News Editor at He first got the diving bug while in High School in Cairo, Egypt, where he earned his PADI Open Water Diver certification in the Red Sea off the Sinai Peninsula. Since then, John has dived in a volcanic lake in Guatemala, among white-tipped sharks off the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, and other places including a pool in Las Vegas helping to break the world record for the largest underwater press conference.