The humpback whale became the iconic whale that turned the tide of public opinion against commercial whaling after Roger Payne released a recoding of their evocative songs in 1972. “The Songs of the Humpback Whale” became the first ‘Gold Album’ (a million sales) produced by an animal.
The songs are long, complex, and include varied sections – stanzas and codas, lasting 10 – 20 minutes and often repeated for hours on end and are sung by the males. All males in a given regional group will sing the same song throughout the breeding season. The songs will change each year, so a group and a year can be identified by the song. Recently there has been evidence that song elements migrate between some groups over time.
Discovery of Sound in the Sea
Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Bioacoustics Research Program
Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whales National Marine Sanctuary
PBS Secrets of the Ocean Realm
Cerchio, S. and Dahlheim, M. 2001. Variation in feeding vocalizations of humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) from southeast Alaska. Bioacoustics 11: 277-295.Charif, R.A., Clapham, P.J. and Clark, C.W., 2001.Acoustic detections of singing humpback whales in deep waters off the British Isles. Marine Mammal Science, 17(4): 751-768.
Clark, C.W. and Clapham, P.J. 2004. Acoustic monitoring on a humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) feeding ground shows continual singing into late spring. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B 271: 1051-1057.
Darling, J.D. and Bérubé, M. 2001. Interactions of singing humpback whales with other males. Marine Mammal Science 17(3): 570-584.
Cerchio, S., Jacobsen, J.K. and Norris, T.N. 2001. Temporal and geographical variation in songs of humpback whales, Megaptera novaeangliae: Synchronous change in Hawaiian and Mexican breeding assemblages. Animal Behavior 62(2): 313-329.
Richardson, W.J., Green, C.R. Jr., Malme, C.I. and Thomson, D.H. 1995. Marine Mammals and Noise. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.