In this article, we are going to explain about why do whales sing? With the help of YouTube video that has 1.1 million views. You can watch the video at the end of this article.
Why Do Whales Sing?
Underwater communication is a challenge. Light and smell do not transmit well, so it is difficult for animals to see or smell. But sound moves about four times faster in water than in air, so in this dark environment, marine mammals often rely on vocalization to communicate. This is why the ocean is filled with a track of sounds.
Crackles, pulsations, whistles, groans, booms, cries and tremors, just to name a few. But the most famous parts of this aquatic symphony are the touching melodies or songs composed by the world’s largest mammal: whales.
Whale songs are one of the most sophisticated communication systems in the animal kingdom. Only a few species are known to sing. Bluefin, bowhead whales, minke whales, and of course, humpback whales. All of these are baleen whales that use hairy baleen plates instead of teeth to hunt their prey.
Meanwhile, toothed whales use echolocation, and they and other species of baleen whales make social sounds, such as cries and whistles, to communicate. But the lyrics lack the complexity of the songs.
So how do you do it? Terrestrial mammals like us generate sound by moving air over the vocal cords when we exhale, causing them to vibrate. Baleen whales have a U-shaped fold of tissue between the lungs and large inflatable organs called laryngeal sacs.
We don’t know this for sure because it’s essentially impossible to observe the internal organs of a living singing whale, but we think that when a whale sings , muscle contractions in the throat and chest move air from the lungs through the fold and into the laryngeal sacs, causing the fold to vibrate.
The resulting sound resonates in the bags resembling a choral singing, making the songs loud enough to spread thousands of kilometers away. Whales do not have to exhale to sing. Instead, the air is recirculated to the lungs, making the sound again.
One of the reasons whale songs are so amazing is their style. Units such as groans, shouts, and tweets are arranged in phrases. Frequent phrases are grouped into themes. Multiple themes repeat in a predictable pattern to create a song. This hierarchical structure is a kind of base. Whale songs are very variable in duration, and whales can play them over and over again.
In one recorded session, a humpback whale could sing for 22 hours. And
Why do whales do that?
- To mark their territory
- To look more attractive
- To coordinate migration
- To communicate with their young
- Because it’s fun
We don’t yet know the exact target, but we can speculate. Given that the singers are mostly male and sing during the mating season, the purpose of the songs may be to attract females. Or it may be territorial with the purpose of deterring other males.
The whales return annually to the same feeding and breeding grounds. Each separate group has a different song. Songs evolve over time as units or phrases are added, changed, or cancelled.
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When males of different populations are feeding in close proximity, phrases are often exchanged, possibly because new songs make them more attractive to fertile females. This is one of the quickest examples of culture transfer, where learned behaviors are passed between unrelated individuals of the same species.
We can eavesdrop on these songs using underwater microphones called hydrophones. They help us keep track of species when sightings or genetic samples are scarce. For example, scientists have been able to differentiate bewildering blue whale populations around the world based on their songs.
But the oceans are getting louder as a result of human activity. Boating, military sonar , underwater construction, and seismic surveys to extract oil all happen more frequently, which may interfere with whale communications.
Some whales may avoid key areas for feeding or breeding if human noise is too loud. It has been observed that humpback whales reduce their singing when there is noise 200 km away. Reducing human activity along migration routes and other critical habitats and reducing noise pollution throughout the ocean will help ensure the whales’ survival.
If the whales keep singing and we keep listening, maybe one day we’ll really understand what you’re saying.
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