[MARMAM] new paper on song function in humpback whales

Josh Smith s4048598 at student.uq.edu.au
Thu Jul 24 17:53:32 PDT 2008

Dear colleagues,

The following paper has recently been published:
Smith, J. N., Goldizen, A. W., Dunlop, R. A. & Noad, M. J. 2008. Songs 
of male humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) are involved in 
intersexual interactions. Animal Behaviour, 76, 467-477
ABSTRACT: Male humpback whales produce complex songs during the breeding 
season, yet the singing behaviour of males and whether songs function in 
male contests and/or through female choice are still poorly understood. 
We investigated song function by obtaining simultaneous observations of 
the positions and movements of singing and nonsinging whales in real 
time during their migration off the east coast of Australia. We 
collected movement data by acoustic tracking using a hydrophone array, 
land-based visual tracking and observations from a small boat. Of the 
114 singers analysed, 66 (58%) associated with conspecifics. Singers 
were significantly more likely to join groups containing a motherecalf 
pair than other groups. Males started to sing after joining groups only 
if they consisted of a motherecalf pair not escorted by another male. 
Singers also associated longer and sang for a significantly greater 
proportion of time with motherecalf pairs than any other group type. 
Associating with motherecalf pairs has been shown to be a reproductively 
successful strategy for males. In contrast, whales that joined singers 
were usually lone males; these associations were brief and singers 
typically stopped singing in the presence of other males. This is the 
highest reported incidence in humpback whales of males singing when 
escorting females and supports an intersexual function of song in 
humpback whales. We suggest that males joining singers are prospecting 
for females rather than engaging in male social ordering and that 
singing may incur the cost of
attracting competing males.
Pdf files of the paper are available from the Animal Behaviour website 
for those subscribed or from j.smith at sib.uq.edu.au 
<mailto:peterstevick at aol.com>
Josh Smith


Joshua Smith 
School of Integrative Biology 
University of Queensland 
St Lucia, Qld 4072, Australia 

Phone: (office) +61 7 3365 4825  Fax +61 7 3365 1655 
Email <j.smith at sib.uq.edu.au> 
Webpage: http://www.uq.edu.au/berg/josh 
Behavioural Ecology Research Group: 
Website: http://www.uq.edu.au/berg/

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