Whales pick up new songs
29th Nov 2000
Male humpback whales sing songs to attract females Even singing whales are not immune to picking up a catchy tune. Humpback whales living in the waters of the Great Barrier Reef have astonished scientists by learning a new melody sung by visitors from a distant ocean.
Such a revolutionary change is unprecedented in animal cultural vocal
traditions In less than two years, the giants of the deep swapped their
own distinctive serenade for that of their wandering Indian Ocean cousins.
Male humpback whales sing on their way to and from their mating grounds in the waters of the Great Barrier Reef off the east coast of Australia. Normally, whales in different ocean basins sing unrelated songs. Like birds, their melodies can change over time, but usually this is a slow, gradual process.
So Dr Michael Noad of the University of Sydney, New South Wales, and
"In 1996, when we were recording the whales we picked up a small number of whales that were singing this completely different song. Literally, within a period of a few months, the east coast singers have all changed their song and adopted the west coast song."
The marine biologists found that at first only two of 82 east coast
an emissary solution