Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

Video: Why do whales sing?

Communicating underwater is challenging. Light and odors don’t travel well, but sound moves about four times faster in water than in air — which means marine mammals often use sounds to communicate. The most famous of these underwater vocalizations is undoubtedly the whale song. This short animated film, produced by Stephanie Sardelis of the Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, decodes the evocative melodies composed by the world’s largest mammals.

If you would like to hear a variety of whale songs selected for their musical qualities, please click here.

The humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) is a species of baleen whale. One of the larger rorqual species, adults range in length from 12–16 m (39–52 ft) and weigh around 25–30 metric tons (28–33 short tons). The humpback has a distinctive body shape, with long pectoral fins and a knobbly head. It is known for breaching and other distinctive surface behaviors, making it popular with whale watchers. Males produce a complex song lasting 10 to 20 minutes, which they repeat for hours at a time. All the males in a group will produce the same song which is different each season. Its purpose is not clear, though it may have a role in mating by inducing estrous. Found in oceans and seas around the world, humpback whales typically migrate up to 25,000 km (16,000 mi) each year. They feed in polarwaters, and migrate to tropical or subtropical waters to breed and give birth,  fasting and living off their fat reserves. Their diet consists mostly of krill and small fish. Humpbacks have a diverse repertoire of feeding methods, including the bubble net technique. Like other large whales, the humpback was a target for the whaling industry. Once hunted to the brink of extinction, its population fell by an estimated 90% before a 1966 moratorium. While stocks have partially recovered to some 80,000 animals worldwide, entanglement in fishing gear, collisions with ships and noise pollution continue to affect the species. [Source: Wikipedia]


This post was curated by Michael Simms.

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