Even Humpback Whales Release Hit 'Singles'
The fact that male humpback whales sing long sweet melodies has been known for many years - However, a new finding suggests that some melodies get so popular, that they are sung by whales all over the world!
But before we delve further into this new exciting discovery, here is a bit of background about the ballads sung by these mammals. Unlike our 3-4 minute long singles, the soulful songs sung by humpback whales last for ten to twenty minutes. And, they are not random noises, but are made of actual themes that keep repeating and developing. Scientists are not sure whether they sing it to attract females or to ward off competitors, but apparently once they begin, the mammals sing it over and over, for 24 hours.
Also, they release a new song every year - Some years it is a mix of the previous year's melody with some new tunes, while in other years its a totally original song - And this, is where it gets really interesting.
While scientists have known for some time that the song of the year is sung by the entire population of male whales that live in a pod, they recently discovered that it was also 'downloaded' by whales that lived in other areas of the world.
The research was conducted by University of Queensland biologists Ellen Garland and Michael Noad, who recorded songs from six different Pacific whale populations between 1998 and 2009. What they observed was amazing. In almost each case, the songs originated from a humpback pod in Australia's eastern coast. The same song then moved from group to group, until it was being sung by the whales in French Polynesia - about 4,000 miles away. One song became such a super hit that it traveled all the way to the Atlantic! However, since they don't have iTunes or iPods, this process takes about two years.
In fact, the scientists are not sure whether the songs are passed on by male humpbacks who move from one pod to another, or shared by the different populations when they meet during migration. However, the finding is considered groundbreaking, because it confirms that like humans, whales exchange their culture with each other, something that has never been observed in the animal kingdom before.
Amongst the largest species of whales, Humpbacks are easy to spot thanks to the unique markings on the underside of their tail. These amazing mammals can dive up to 45 minutes, reach depths of 600ft. and see underwater for more than 400ft. They can blow bubbles from their blowholes at speeds exceeding 300mph and have lungs large enough to hold 2.500 gallons of air.
The most amazing part however is, that they have no vocal chords. Their famous songs, which can be heard for over 100 miles, are sung by blowing air through their nasal cavities. The one sad part is, that there are currently only about 10,000 of these gorgeous creatures left, down from 100,000 that lived in our oceans, not too long ago.
Resources: wired.com, dailymail.co.uk