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A Whale of a Tale



After decades of listening to the eerie, mystical-sounding calls of humpback whales, a researcher in acoustic biology has discovered that these musical artists from the ocean’s depths create their complex song much like jazz musicians. They don’t simply sing out the same lyrical sounds, but instead, the mammals continue modifying their compositions with other whales around them.

While many animals make vocalizations, it seems the humpback whales’ songs evolve over time. The biologist likened it to jazz, where a player riffs on the same methodical repetition, but adds his or her personal touch to make it more their own.

  • Photo by Reinhard Dirscherl/Look-foto/Corbi

To read about the fascinating science behind the discovery and learn more about the recording from 1964 that remained under wraps in trepidation of whale hunters (not an unrealistic fear considering news of late) click on this piece from NPR’s Morning Edition’s weekly summer series entitled Close Listening: Decoding Nature Through Sound.

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