[MARMAM] New paper: Acoustic interactions between singing humpback whales

Danielle Cholewiak danielle.cholewiak at noaa.gov
Thu Feb 22 11:19:00 PST 2018

Dear colleagues,

My co-authors and I are pleased to announce the following publication:

Cholewiak DC, Cerchio S, Jacobsen JK, Urban J, Clark CW. 2018. Songbird
dynamics under the sea: acoustic interactions between humpback whales
suggest song mediates male interactions


The function of song has been well studied in numerous taxa and plays a
role in mediating both intersexual and intrasexual interactions. Humpback
whales are among few mammals who sing, but the role of sexual selection on
song in this species is poorly understood. While one predominant hypothesis
is that song mediates male–male interactions, the mechanism by which this
may occur has never been explored. We applied metrics typically used to
assess songbird interactions to examine song sequences and movement
patterns of humpback whale singers. We found that males altered their song
presentation in the presence of other singers; focal males increased the
rate at which they switched between phrase types (*p* = 0.005), and tended
to increase the overall evenness of their song presentation (*p* = 0.06)
after a second male began singing. Two-singer dyads overlapped their song
sequences significantly more than expected by chance. Spatial analyses
revealed that change in distance between singers was related to whether
both males kept singing (*p* = 0.012), with close approaches leading to
song cessation. Overall, acoustic interactions resemble known mechanisms of
mediating intrasexual interactions in songbirds. Future work should focus
on more precisely resolving how changes in song presentation may be used in
competition between singing males.

This paper is open-access and is available here:

Danielle Cholewiak

Danielle Cholewiak, Ph.D.
Passive Acoustic Research Group / Protected Species Branch
NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center
166 Water Street
Woods Hole, MA 02543

Tel: (508) 495-2010
Fax: (508) 495-2066
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