HUMP­BACKS

Miami Herald (Sunday) - - In Depth -

suggested that the de­vel­op­ment may be the re­sult of “run­away se­lec­tion.”

Early hump­backs with com­plex songs were so much more suc­cess­ful at mat­ing that they gained a sub­stan­tial evo­lu­tion­ary ad­van­tage over their brethren with sim­pler vo­cal­iza­tions. This led to some very large, some­times very noisy an­i­mals.

Julien Bon­nel, an as­so­ciate sci­en­tist at the Woods Hole Oceano­graphic In­sti­tu­tion in Mas­sachusetts, said the grow­ing re­search also shows the im­por­tance of col­lect­ing data over many years, of­fer­ing in­sights not only into whales but ocean con­di­tions that af­fect other species.

The tech­nol­ogy for record­ing whales has got­ten much cheaper over the last dozen years or so, mak­ing it more ac­ces­si­ble to re­searchers. And com­puter pro­grams that an­a­lyze huge data sets quickly have helped in­ter­pret years of these record­ings.

Tag­ging whales with­out hurt­ing them has pro­duced more data, Noad noted, but the tags re­main on the whale only for a few hours, lim­it­ing the in­for­ma­tion that can be col­lected.

In one of the new stud- ies, led by sci­en­tists at the New York-based Wildlife Con­ser­va­tion So­ci­ety, re­searchers tracked hump­backs singing along the east and west coasts of Africa, com­par­ing songs sung by those off the coast of Gabon to those near Mada­gas­car.

The study, pub­lished in the jour­nal Royal So­ci­ety Open Sci­ence, con­firmed that the two pop­u­la­tions in­ter­act, not­ing over­lap in their vo­cal­iza­tions.

The re­searchers recorded songs an­nu­ally from

2001 to 2005 us­ing hand-held hy­drophones aboard boats.

“Male hump­back whales within a pop­u­la­tion tend to sing the same song type, but it’s con­tin­u­ously chang­ing and evolv­ing over time,” said Melinda Rek­dahl, the study’s first au­thor and a ma­rine con­ser­va­tion sci­en­tist with the wildlife so­ci­ety. “It’s thought to be one of the best ex­am­ples of cul­tural evo­lu­tion in the an­i­mal king­dom.”

Rek­dahl wasn’t on the boat that col­lected the sound for her new study, but she knows first­hand that “it can be an amaz­ing ex­pe­ri­ence,” she said.

The sound of a nearby singer res­onates through

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