A global hit: Humpback whales ‘remix’ the best bits of songs from each other – and the most popular even travel between oceans

Humpback whales from different ocean basins are swapping songs with each other, researchers have found.

Stunned researchers found humpback whale in the South Atlantic and Indian Oceans in the Southern Hemisphere sang similar song types.

Researchers believe that animals from two two populations come into contact, swapping songs when they so.

The newly published study in Royal Society Open Science is helping scientists better understand how whales learn and change their musical compositions.

‘Song sharing between populations tends to happen more in the Northern Hemisphere where there are fewer physical barriers to movement of individuals between populations on the breeding grounds, where they do the majority of their singing,’ said Dr. Melinda Rekdahl, marine conservation scientist for WCS’s Ocean Giants Program and lead author of the study.

‘In some populations in the Southern Hemisphere song sharing appears to be more complex, with little song similarity within years but entire songs can spread to neighboring populations leading to song similarity across years.

‘Our study shows that this is not always the case in Southern Hemisphere populations, with similarities between both ocean basin songs occurring within years to different degrees over a 5-year period.’

The study authors examined humpback whale song recordings from both sides of the African continent – from animals off the coasts of Gabon and Madagascar respectively – and transcribed more than 1,500 individual sounds that were recorded between 2001-2005.

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