Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Multi-tasking whales sing while feeding, not just breeding

20.12.2012
Humpback whales are famed for their songs, most often heard in breeding season when males are competing to mate with females. In recent years, however, reports of whale songs occurring outside traditional breeding grounds have become more common. A new study may help explain why.

Humpbacks sing for their supper -- or at least, they sing while they hunt for it.

The research, published December 19 in PLoS ONE, uncovers the whales' little-understood acoustic behavior while foraging.

It also reveals a previously unknown behavioral flexibility on their part that allows the endangered marine mammals to balance their need to feed continuously with the competing need to exhibit mating behaviors such as song displays.

"They need to feed. They need to breed. So essentially, they multi-task," said study co-author Ari S. Friedlaender, research scientist at Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment. "This suggests the widely held behavioral dichotomy of breeding-versus-feeding for this species is too simplistic."

Researchers from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School, the University of California-Santa Barbara and Duke tracked 10 humpback whales in coastal waters along the Western Antarctic Peninsula in May and June 2010. The peninsula's bays and fjords are important late-season feeding grounds where humpbacks feast on krill each austral autumn before migrating to warm-water calving grounds thousands of miles away.

Using non-invasive multi-sensor tags that attach to the whales with suction cups, the researchers recorded the whales' underwater movements and vocalizations as they foraged.

All 10 of the tags picked up the sounds of background songs, and in two cases, they recorded intense and continuous whale singing with a level of organization and structure approaching that of a typical breeding-ground mating display. The song bouts sometimes lasted close to an hour and in one case occurred even while sensors indicated the whale, or a close companion, was diving and lunging for food.

Humpbacks sing most frequently during breeding season, but are known to sing on other occasions too, such as while escorting mother-calf pairs along migratory routes. Though the reasons they sing are still not thoroughly understood, one distinction is clear: Songs sung in breeding grounds are quite different in duration, phrase type and theme structure from those heard at other locations and times.

"The fact that we heard mating displays being sung in late-season foraging grounds off the coast of Antarctica suggests humpback whale behavior may be more closely tied to the time of year than to physical locations. This may signify an ability to engage in breeding activities outside their traditional warm-water breeding grounds," said Douglas P. Nowacek, Repass-Rogers University Associate Professor of Conservation Technology at Duke's Nicholas School.

As the region's climate warms, sea ice cover around the Western Antarctic Peninsula has thinned in recent years and the water stays open later in the foraging season, he explained. Whales are remaining there longer into austral autumn to feast on krill instead of heading off to warm-water breeding grounds, as many scientists previously believed.

"Mating may now be taking place at higher latitudes," Nowacek said. "This merits further study."

Alison K. Stimpert, research associate in oceanography at the Naval Postgraduate School, was lead author of the new study. Lindsey E. Peavey, a PhD Student at the University of California at Santa Barbara's Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, co-authored it with Stimpert, Friedlaender and Nowacek.

Funding was provided by the National Science Foundation.

Friedlaender and Nowacek are stationed at the Duke University Marine Lab in Beaufort, N.C. Nowacek holds a joint appointment as Repass-Rogers University Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Duke's Pratt School of Engineering.

CITATION: : "Humpback Whale Song and Foraging Behavior on an Antarctic Feeding Ground," Alison K. Stimpert, U.S. Naval Postgraduate School; Lindsey E. Peavey, University of California-Santa Barbara; Ari S. Friedlaender, Duke University; Douglas P. Nowacek, Duke University. PLoS ONE, Dec. 19, 2012

Tim Lucas | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.duke.edu

Further reports about: Antarctic Predators PLoS One Whale bird songs coastal water humpback humpback whale

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Making fuel out of thick air
08.12.2017 | DOE/Argonne National Laboratory

nachricht ‘Spying’ on the hidden geometry of complex networks through machine intelligence
08.12.2017 | Technische Universität Dresden

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

Im Focus: Successful Mechanical Testing of Nanowires

With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong

Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...

Im Focus: Virtual Reality for Bacteria

An interdisciplinary group of researchers interfaced individual bacteria with a computer to build a hybrid bio-digital circuit - Study published in Nature Communications

Scientists at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria) have managed to control the behavior of individual bacteria by connecting them to a...

Im Focus: A space-time sensor for light-matter interactions

Physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (run jointly by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics) have developed an attosecond electron microscope that allows them to visualize the dispersion of light in time and space, and observe the motions of electrons in atoms.

The most basic of all physical interactions in nature is that between light and matter. This interaction takes place in attosecond times (i.e. billionths of a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

Blockchain is becoming more important in the energy market

05.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New research identifies how 3-D printed metals can be both strong and ductile

11.12.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

11.12.2017 | Materials Sciences

What makes corals sick?

11.12.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>