Humpback whales might be expected to take their food seriously given their enormous size, but a new study shows that they may multi-task as they eat, singing mating or breeding songs as they forage in their Antarctic feeding grounds. The research, published December 19 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Alison Stimpert from the Naval Postgraduate School and colleagues, sheds new light on the whales' singing habits in different seasons, which are still a mystery.
Whales sing most frequently during the breeding season but are known to sing on other occasions, such as while escorting mother-calf pairs along migratory routes. Though the reasons that whales sing are still unknown, the distinction between their seasonal behaviors is clear. Breeding, migration and foraging occur in different regions and times of the year, and rarely overlap.
In the current study, the researchers tracked ten whales to study singing behavior in their foraging grounds. They found that all ten sang while foraging, but two of the whales showed intense, continuous bouts of singing similar to what the researchers expected to see in breeding grounds. They also found the whales sang for up to an hour at a time and during active diving periods.
According to the authors, their data reveal a previously unknown behavioral flexibility, where humpbacks can balance the competing needs to feed continuously to prepare for breeding with mating behaviors like song displays. They suggest that this may also signify an ability to engage in breeding activities outside of the traditional, warm water breeding ground locations. Stimpert adds, "We were surprised to find such structured song in the Antarctic feeding ground. The tag data are also exciting because this is the first time that we can see that the singers aren't sitting off by themselves like they do on the breeding grounds -- they're right in the midst of the feeding action, choosing to sing instead."
Stimpert AK, Peavey LE, Friedlaender AS, Nowacek DP (2012) Humpback Whale Song and Foraging Behavior on an Antarctic Feeding Ground. PLoS ONE 7(12): e51214. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0051214
Public Library of Science: http://www.plos.org
This press release was posted to serve as a topic for discussion. Please comment below. We try our best to only post press releases that are associated with peer reviewed scientific literature. Critical discussions of the research are appreciated. If you need help finding a link to the original article, please contact us on twitter or via e-mail.
A riverside in Nebraska is a welcome refuelling stop for these elegant birds migrating from Mexico to their breeding grounds
Deprived of sight, blind people manage to squeeze an amazing amount of information out of their other senses. Doing this requires their brains to do some reorganizing. To learn about some of these changes, scientists studied the brains of blind people ...
In 1973, American soldiers on the Mekong River in Laos killed and hauled ashore a massive 24-foot ribbon of a fish. It was the “Queen of the Naga,” claimed a postcard still widely circulated in Southeast Asia with the above ...
Bald eagles have made a comeback. See life in the nest now during peak nesting season.
Photos capture a river otter attacking a gator in a Florida river. The otter then feasted, witnesses say.
The 10-meter long Torvosaurus weighed up to five tons.
Researchers say the key to fighting superbugs is individualized treatment plans, and a new nanochip might pave the way
Some farmers have long sworn by mellow tunes to boost Bessie's milk production. The science is hardly conclusive. But a study hints at what might top the barnyard playlist. (Psst: They liked R.E.M.)
Craig Venter, the U.S. scientist who raced the U.S. government to map the human genome over a decade ago and created synthetic life in 2010, is now on a quest to treat age-related disease.
Dr Dave Hone: The Daohugou Fauna is rich in dinosaurs, lizards, pterosaurs, salamanders and mammalsDr Dave Hone