Humpback whale song recordings suggest common feeding ground occupation by multiple populations

elena.schall [ at ]


Humpback whale males are known to sing on their low-latitude breeding grounds, but it is well established that songs are also commonly produced ‘off-season’ on the feeding grounds or during migration. This opens exciting opportunities to investigate migratory aggregations, study humpback whale behavioral plasticity and potentially even assign individual singers to specific breeding grounds. In this study, we analyzed passive acoustic data from 13 recording positions and multiple years (2011–2018) within the Atlantic sector of the Southern Ocean (ASSO). Humpback whale song was detected at nine recording positions in five years. Most songs were recorded in May, austral fall, coinciding with the rapid increase in sea ice concentration at most recording positions. The spatio-temporal pattern in humpback whale singing activity on Southern Ocean feeding grounds is most likely shaped by local prey availability and humpback whale migratory strategies. Furthermore, the comparative analyses of song structures clearly show a differentiation of two song groups, of which one was solely recorded at the western edge of the ASSO and the other song group was recorded throughout the ASSO. This new finding suggests a common feeding ground occupation by multiple humpback whale populations in the ASSO, allowing for cultural and potentially even genetic exchange among populations.

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Primary Division
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Helmholtz Cross Cutting Activity (2021-2027)
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DOI 10.1038/s41598-021-98295-z

Cite as
Schall, E. , Thomisch, K. , Boebel, O. , Gerlach, G. , Mangia Woods, S. , Roca, I. T. and Van Opzeeland, I. (2021): Humpback whale song recordings suggest common feeding ground occupation by multiple populations , Scientific Reports, 11 (1), pp. 2045-2322 . doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-98295-z

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