Skip to content

Research at St Andrews

Interactions between singing Hawaiian humpback whales and conspecifics nearby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

DOI

Abstract

Interactions of singing humpback whales, Megaptera novaeangliae, with conspecifics nearly were studied during the breeding season off the west coast of Maui, Hawaii. On 35 occasions singing humpbacks were followed by boats (Table 1). The movement patterns of these singing whales and other conspecifics nearby were recorded by observers on land using a theodolite. Thirteen of 35 singers stopped singing and joined with nonsinging whales either simultaneously or within a few minutes after ceasing to sing. Another 15 also stopped singing while under observation and were not seen to join with another whale, but all singing whales that joined with other whales stopped singing. Singing whales often pursue nonsinging whales, while nonsinging whales usually turn away from singers (Figs. 4, 5). When a singer joined with a female and calf unaccompanied by another adult, behavior tentatively associated with courtship and mating was observed (Fig. 7). Such behavior also occurred during several interactions between singers and individuals of unknown sex. Aggressive behavior was observed during three interactions between singers and individuals of unknown sex (Fig. 4) and it predominated whenever more than one adult accompanied a cow and calf. During the other occasions when a singer joined another whale, we could not determine the nature of the interaction. Many times the singers and joiner would surface together only once and would then separate. However, on several occasions the singer and joiner would remain together for as long as we could follow them, up to 1.5 h. The roles of singer and joiner can be interchangeable. For instance, on two occasions a singer joined with a whale that either had been singing or started singing later in the day (Fig. 3). Furthermore, on several occasions, a nonsinging whale appeared to displace the singer. Individual singing humpbacks are not strictly territorial, although singers appear to avoid other singers. As the breeding season progressed, singers sang for longer periods of time (Fig. 2). In addition, the probability of a whale joining with the singer decreased by 42% from the first half of the observation period to the second half. Furthermore, this increase in duration of song bouts occurred during that section of the season when female reproductive activity as measured by rate of ovulation is reported to be decreasing in other areas. Our observations support the hypothesis that humpback song plays a reproductive role similar to that of bird song. Humpbacks sing only during the breeding season. If, as seems likely, most singing humpbacks are male, then singing humpbacks probably communicate their species, sex, location, readiness to mate with females, and readiness to engage in agonistic behavior with other whales.

Close

Details

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105-116
Number of pages12
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Volume8
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 1981

Discover related content
Find related publications, people, projects and more using interactive charts.

View graph of relations

Related by author

  1. Measuring ambient ocean sound during the COVID-19 pandemic

    Tyack, P. L., Miksis-Olds-Olds, J., Urban, Jr, E. R. & Ausubel, J., 4 Mar 2021, In: Eos, Transactions, American Geophysical Union. 102, 10.1029/2021EO155447.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  2. Effects of 3 Tesla magnetic resonance imaging exposure on the behavior and orientation of homing pigeons Columba livia domestica

    Párraga, D. G., Tyack, P. L., Marco-Cabedo, V., Crespo-Picazo, J. L., Manteca, X. & Martí-Bonmatí, L., 18 Dec 2020, In: PLoS ONE. 15, 12, 9 p., e0241280.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  3. On the use of the Lloyd's Mirror effect to infer the depth of vocalizing fin whales

    Pereira, A., Harris, D., Tyack, P. & Matias, L., 1 Nov 2020, In: Journal of the Acoustical Society of America. 148, 5, p. 3086-3101 16 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  4. Short-term responses of sperm whales Physeter macrocephalus to the attachment of suction cup tags

    Warren, V. E., Miller, P. J. O. & Tyack, P. L., 9 Jul 2020, In: Marine Ecology Progress Series. 645, p. 219-234 16 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  5. Flash and grab: deep-diving southern elephant seals trigger anti-predator flashes in bioluminescent prey

    Goulet, P., Guinet, C., Campagna, C., Campagna, J., Tyack, P. L. & Johnson, M., 19 May 2020, In: Journal of Experimental Biology. 223, 10, 11 p., jeb.222810.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Related by journal

  1. Individual behavioural traits not social context affects learning about novel objects in archerfish

    Jones, N. A. R., Spence-Jones, H. C., Webster, M. & Rendell, L. E., 22 Feb 2021, In: Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology. 75, 11 p., 58.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  2. Effective use of the McNemar test

    Pembury Smith, M. & Ruxton, G. D., 10 Oct 2020, In: Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology. 74, 9 p., 133.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  3. Effects of indirect reputation and type of rearing on food choices in chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes)

    Bueno-Guerra, N., Colell, M. & Call, J., 6 Jun 2020, In: Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology. 74, 6, 79.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  4. Grouped circular data in biology: advice for effectively implementing statistical procedures

    Landler, L., Ruxton, G. D. & Malkemper, E. P., 20 Jul 2020, In: Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology. 74, 8, 8 p., 100.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Related by journal

  1. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology (Journal)

    Monica Arso Civil (Reviewer)

    15 Dec 2016 → …

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial work typesPeer review of manuscripts

  2. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology (Journal)

    Luke Edward Rendell (Editor)

    2015 → …

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial work typesEditor of research journal

  3. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology (Journal)

    Kate Arnold (Reviewer)

    2007 → …

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial work typesPeer review of manuscripts

  4. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology (Journal)

    Vincent Janik (Member of editorial board)

    20052014

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial work typesEditor of research journal

  5. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology (Journal)

    Anne Magurran (Editor)

    19972002

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial work typesEditor of research journal

ID: 255589515

Top