Humpback whales spread catchy tunes to each other, study reveals

Friday, April 15, 2011 - 03:31 in Biology & Nature

Hit versions of whale song are adopted across populations, while other tunes are judged a failure and droppedHumpback whales spread catchy songs to each other through the ocean, research has shown.Male whales whistle mating tunes that either prove a hit or miss. Catchy "remix" versions of the songs quickly spread across the ocean, almost always travelling east to west, scientists have found.Usually the songs are made up of blended old and new material. But sometimes a song is judged to be a failure and dropped altogether, making way for a new tune.Researcher Ellen Garland, from the University of Queensland in Australia, said: "Our findings reveal cultural change on a vast scale."She said popular songs moved like "cultural ripples from one population to another", causing all the males to start singing the new version.The scientists made the discovery after spending a decade searching for patterns in songs recorded from six neighbouring...

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