[MARMAM] New Publication: Humpback whale song hierarchical structure

Danielle Cholewiak danielle.cholewiak at noaa.gov
Mon Jan 28 07:47:38 PST 2013

Dear Marmam list members,

We are pleased to announce the following paper, available in Early View
through Marine Mammal Science:

Cholewiak, D., Sousa-Lima, R. & Cerchio, S. Humpback whale song
hierarchical structure: Historical context and discussion of current
classification issues. DOI: 10.1111/mms.12005

The pdf can be accessed online at:

or via email request (danielle.cholewiak at noaa.gov).

Consistent and well-defined criteria for the classification and measurement
of humpback whale song features are essential for robust comparisons
between investigators. Song structure terminology has been well-established
and used by many authors, though at times inconsistently. This review
discusses the development of the nomenclature describing humpback song and
explores the potential significance of the often-overlooked variation in
song patterns. Within the hierarchical definition of humpback song, the
most problematic issues arise from the inconsistent delineation of phrase
types, and the use of the metric of song duration without regards to
variability in thematic sequence. With regards to the former, a set of
guidelines is suggested to facilitate consistent delineation of phrases.
With regards to the latter, current research demonstrates that the “song
duration” metric has resulted in the disregard of variability at this
level, which is more widespread than traditionally reported. An exemplar
case is used to highlight the problem inherent in defining and measuring
song duration. Humpback song is evaluated within the framework of avian
songbird research, and a shift in analysis paradigm is recommended, towards
phrase-based analyses in which sequences of phrases are treated as a
salient feature of song pattern.


Danielle Cholewiak
Protected Species Branch
NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center
166 Water Street
Woods Hole, MA 02543
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