Even though the two geographical locations are approximately 5,000 miles (8,000 km) apart, an international team of researchers has discovered similarities in the melodies produced by whales in eastern Australia and those in French Polynesia. This was revealed in a study by New Scientist.
The rhythmic song that male humpback whales sing is something they acquire socially. It consists of structures that resemble classical music notes and symphonies. These mammals have been found to transmit their culture through song, and the majority of males in a colony will sing the same song.
The tunes certainly change over time, but it happens gradually and methodically. However, in the South Pacific, where the whale groups have entirely and quickly changed their songs, researchers have observed song revolutions.
A change in song in humpback whales
Whale songs from various locations in the South Pacific were examined by researchers to determine what precisely was generating this occurrence. In 2011, Ellen Garland of the Scottish Oceans Institute at the University of St. Andrews discovered that specific motifs associated with a mating that had been captured off the Australian coast were heard again in French Polynesia, which was located some 3,700 miles (6,000 km) distant.
She collaborated with researchers from the Universidad San Francisco de Quito in Ecuador to gather sound data from the area as well as French Polynesia between the years 2016 and 2018 to find out if these themes or songs had spread further. The similarity between the two songs was then assessed using similarity analyses on the recordings.
Unexpectedly, the scientists discovered that three distinct tunes first appeared in Polynesian waters in 2016 before moving on to Ecuador in 2018, indicating that the songs were migrating eastward.
Why is this such a big deal?
The arrangement of these new music kinds is so diverse, even though they are made up of identical sounds, according to Garland, who spoke to New Scientist. “They just practically jump off the computer screen and out of the headphones to us,” Garland said. Because they occurred so quickly, “these incredibly rapid cultural changes are not witnessed in any other animal species.”