Humpback Whales Almost 9,000 Miles Apart Have Been Caught Singing The Same Song
Humpback whales throughout the entire South Pacific Ocean are connected to each other via shared song, according to new research.
From the east coast of Australia to French Polynesia to breeding grounds off Ecuador – a total distance of more than 14,000 kilometers (8,700 miles) – researchers have heard humpbacks (Megaptera novaeangliae) trading the same viral hits.
Male humpback whales are known to belt out mating songs 'as complex as jazz' during breeding season, and each population has a slightly different chorus of vocalizations that they string together in unique ways.
These multiple repeating phrases are known as 'themes', and each whale song has several.
Yet every once and a while, a breeding population will undergo a song 'revolution', whereby all the themes the males sing are replaced by new ones.
It's not clear why they do this, but previous studies have shown these subtle amendments can turn into smash hits.
Around the turn of the century, humpback populations on the west coast of Australia were found to be sharing themes with populations on the east coast.
Then, years later, breeding populations near French Polynesia were caught singing the same song themes that started on the east coast of Australia, about 6,000 kilometers (3,730 miles) away.
Now, it seems, the songs can spread even further. Researchers have shown whale songs in French Polynesia can migrate right across the Pacific Ocean to South America, another 8,000 kilometers (4,970 miles) east.
Over the course of three years, from 2016 to 2018, the team was able to map a gradual song revolution that was first heard in French Polynesia and then again off South America just a few years later. ...