[MARMAM] New publication on humpback whale song in the South Pacific

Clare Owen clare_owen at hotmail.co.uk
Thu Sep 5 11:20:51 PDT 2019


Dear MARMAM,

My co-authors and I are pleased to announce the following publication in Royal Society Open Science:

Migratory convergence facilitates cultural transmission of humpback whale song.

Clare Owen, Luke Rendell, Rochelle Constantine, Michael J. Noad, Jenny Allen, Olive Andrews, Claire Garrigue, M. Michael Poole, David Donnelly, Nan Hauser and Ellen C. Garland.

Abstract: Cultural transmission of behaviour is important in a wide variety of vertebrate taxa from birds to humans. Vocal traditions and vocal learning provide a strong foundation for studying culture and its transmission in both humans and cetaceans. Male humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) perform complex, culturally transmitted song displays that can change both evolutionarily (through accumulations of small changes) or revolutionarily (where a population rapidly adopts a novel song). The degree of coordination and conformity underlying song revolutions makes their study of particular interest. Acoustic contact on migratory routes may provide a mechanism for cultural revolutions of song, yet these areas of contact remain uncertain.  Here, we compared songs recorded from the Kermadec Islands, a recently discovered migratory stopover, to multiple South Pacific wintering grounds. Similarities in song themes from the Kermadec Islands and multiple wintering locations (from New Caledonia across to the Cook Islands) suggest a location allowing cultural transmission of song eastward across the South Pacific, active song learning (hybrid songs) and the potential for cultural convergence after acoustic isolation at the wintering grounds. As with the correlations in humans between genes, communication and migration, the migration patterns of humpback whales are written into their songs.

The paper is available with open access at: https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rsos.190337

Kind regards,

Clare Owen
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