4aAB6. Geographic variation and cultural evolution in songs of humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) in the eastern North Pacific.

Session: Thursday Morning, May 16

Time: 10:20

Author: Salvatore Cerchio
Location: Museum of Zoology, Univ. of Michigan, 1109 Geddes Ave., Ann Arbor, MI 48109
Author: Jeff Jacobsen
Location: P.O. Box 4492, Arcata, CA 95521


Songs of humpback whales off Hawaii and Mexico were examined to determine whether they changed similarly in both areas during a breeding season. Songs of 24 individuals were recorded off Kauai, Hawaii and Isla Socorro, Mexico during winter and spring of 1991. Forty-seven acoustic variables describing all levels of song structure were measured for each singer. Similar variables were grouped together into six categories. Mean values for each singer were compared among regions and time periods using two-factor ANOVAs. All but three variables changed between winter and spring in at least one area. Groups of similar variables displayed similar trends. Quantitative characteristics of song elements often changed during the breeding season by the same amount in each area, with little variation within and among individuals. Structures of song patterns often changed differently in each area. Results indicated cultural transmission may have occurred during the season. Alternatively, whales may be predisposed to gradually change features of song independent of cultural influences. Given the low level of variability exhibited by many variables, the latter seems more likely; therefore, temporal change, like song structure, may be governed by a discrete set of rules. Further research on a longer time scale is needed.

from ASA 131st Meeting, Indianapolis, May 1996