Humpback Whales: Migration & Song

A recent study published earlier this month in The Royal Society Open Science Journal detailed findings that show it is possible to tell where a whale has traveled based on the songs they sing. A humpback whale‘s song changes as they travel and encounter whales from other parts of the world, showing both geographical changes and social interaction. When whales migrate they meet at feeding grounds or along migratory routes, where new songs and information can be passed along.

This study focused on 52 humpback whales recorded in September and October of 2015 around the Kermadec islands,located in the South Pacific. These islands are a major crossroads along migratory paths for humpback whales. The recordings revealed 3 main song types.Type 1 songs were from the Central Pacific, Type 2 songs were from the Western Pacific and Type 3 songs were from around Eastern Australia. At the Kermadec islands there were two distinct versions of song Type 1, which have been labeled 1a and 1b, where different notes (or units) had been added.

Based on these recordings researchers were able to accurately place where the whales had originally come from. The findings were confirmed with genetic and photographic identification markers.The study indicates that song learning and transmission occurs in places where whales meet, and shows that whale migration can be traced through the songs that whales sing.

You can listen to the different types of songs below:

The full study can be found here.