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Geographic Variation in South Pacific Humpback Whale Songs

In: Behaviour
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  • 1 Department of Psychology, University of Auckland, New Zealand, SPAWAR SYSCEN SAN DIEGO, Code D35l, 49620 Beluga Road, San Diego, CA 92152-6506, USA;, Email: helweg@spawar.navy.mil
  • | 2 School of Biological Sciences, University of Auckland, New Zealand
  • | 3 Defence Science and Technology Organisation, Pyrmont, NSW, Australia
  • | 4 Department of Marine Biology, James Cook University, Townsville, Qld, Australia) (Acc. 4-VIII-1997)
  • | 5 0RSTOM, Noumea, New Caledonia
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Abstract

Every winter, (male) humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) produce long complex songs. Song content is dynamic and singers incorporate changes as they occur, thus song is shared through cultural transmission. We compared songs recorded in winter migratory termini in Tonga, New Caledonia, Eastern Australia, and on migration paths off Eastern Australia and New Zealand, in the winter of 1994. Seven themes were shared by all regions, with an additional two themes shared by all but Tonga. Differences in regional variants were most pronounced between Tongan and Eastern Australian song. New Caledonian and Kaikouran song were more similar to songs from Eastern Australia rather than Tonga. These regional differences were stable across the season. The results suggest some migratory exchange among widely separate wintering regions of Area V, consistent with tag recovery data, but the time and location at which song sharing occurs remains speculative.

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