The humpback whale has always been noted for its oddly hypnotic mating song, filled with clicks and coos, reverberating underwater, but a new study shows the songs are not just individual creations, but rather composed songs, the greatest hits of which pass through the whale society, shared among the males.
Australia’s University of Queensland conducted the two-year study. “The songs started in the population that migrates along the eastern coast of Australia and then moved — just the songs, and probably not the whales — all the way to French Polynesia in the east,” head researcher Ellen Garland said. “Songs were first learnt from males in the west and then subsequently learned in a stepwise fashion repeatedly across the vast region.”
In keeping with the old axiom that nothing is original, the songs are mainly remixes of past popular tunes. It’s the first time scientists have shown a non-human cultural exchange of this size and across such a huge geographic distance.
Here’s one hit single of the whales: