Researchers Find Humpback Whales Singing The Same Song 8,700 Miles Apart

There’s a lot we don’t know or understand about life under the sea. Even with the species that are fairly well studied, like humpback whales, there’s a lot of mystery and things we’re continuing to uncover.

Recently, researchers discovered something rather interesting about whales: two humpback whales were found singing the same song some 8,700 miles apart!

Photo: Unsplash/Thomas Kelley

According to the Whale Trust, the song of a humpback whale is “a loud, complex series of sounds repeated over and over.” Male whales sing the song and its compositing changes as it’s sung.

Groups of humpback whales sing the same version of a song, but the song changes as they go. Because of the changes that take place with a song, each pod of whales uses its own rendition of a whale song.

There’s still a lot that researchers don’t understand about whale songs, but a new research paper has uncovered something interesting.

Photo: Unsplash/Rod Long

The paper, “Humpback whale song revolutions continue to spread from the central into the eastern South Pacific,” was published in the Royal Society Open Science Journal and explores how two pods of whales were found singing the same whale song 8,700 miles apart (14,000 kilometers).

In the paper, the authors explain, “Song is a striking example of non-human cultural transmission and evolution exhibited by oscine songbirds and possibly most baleen whales including humpback whales.”

The humpback whales on the east coast of Australia were singing the same song as the whales in French Polynesia and Ecuador.

Photo: Unsplash/Dmitry Osipenko

Some believe that whale songs travel around the whole world, and it was previously known that humpback whales over 6,000 miles apart were singing the same song. But now, they’ve been confirmed to have the same song even further apart!

The authors explained in the paper, “This study demonstrates songs first identified in western populations can be transmitted across the entire South Pacific, supporting the potential for a circumpolar Southern Hemisphere cultural transmission of song and a vocal culture rivaled in its extent only by our own.”

Photo: Unsplash/Swanson Chan

While it’s not clear exactly how humpback whales pass songs from one group to another, researchers believe that it has to do with whales moving from one area to another. When a whale group moves to a new area to feed or breed, they pass the song to other whales in that area. When those whales then migrate to another area, they pass the song to other whales and it carries on in that way.

There’s still a lot we don’t know about humpback whales and their songs, but we’re slowly uncovering mroe about them!

You can listen to some whale songs for yourself in the video below:

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