Whales memorize complex songs

does a song usually stick in your head quickly? Well, it’s nothing compared to whales. A study led by the University of Queensland found out. This happens with humpback whales. They learn songs from whales in other regions. Yes, whales memorize complex songs

Dr. Jenny Allen of the University of Queensland led the study. Thus, they studied humpback whales from New Caledonia. They could learn songs from their counterparts on the east coast of Australia with remarkable accuracy.

Whales memorize complex songs.
Whales memorize complex songs.

Table of Contents

Good memory

“It’s a level of ‘cultural transmission’ beyond any non-human species observed,” Allen said. He added in a statement how the complexity of the songs was measured. They calculated the number of sounds and the duration of the sound patterns.

“We found that they actually learned the exact sounds, without simplifying or omitting anything. And every year we observed them, they sang a different song. What does this mean? That humpback whales can very quickly learn an entire song pattern from another population. Even if it’s complex or difficult. Whales memorize complex songs.

The findings support the idea that whales are learning songs in shared migratory routes such as New Zealand or shared feeding areas such as Antarctica.

“It is rare for this degree of cultural exchange to be documented on such a large scale in a non-human species. We hope that these findings will provide a model for further study on understanding the evolution of cultural communication in animals and humans,” Allen explained.

Jenny Allen, Ph.D., led the research.
Dr. Jenny Allen directed the research.

Musical culture

Humpback whales have been removed from the endangered species list. But they still need to be managed carefully, and these findings could help.

“Knowing a species better is conducive to effective conservation and management methods,” he said. “We have a more holistic picture of the behaviors, movements and interactions of different humpback whale populations. Including how they transmit culture.”

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