Whales 'can't resist a catchy pop tune'
Humpback whales love a good hit single, and every year a new catchy pop tune spreads among the male underwater crooners, said an Australian study released on Thursday.
6:56PM BST 14 Apr 2011
The men are the only ones who sing, likely in the hopes of making some lady whale swoon, according to the research published in the US journal Current Biology.
If there is a whale version of the King of Pop, he likely resides off the coast of eastern Australia, because that is where the popular tune of the season has always originated for the past decade, researchers said.
The hit-making tune then ripples eastward across the South Pacific Ocean, from Australia to French Polynesia, infecting genetically distinct groups of whales who all start singing the same song during breeding season.
In typical pop music fashion, the tunes are not all that original most of the time, said researcher Ellen Garland, a graduate student at The University of Queensland.
"It would be like splicing an old Beatles song with U2," Garland said. "Occasionally they completely throw the current song out the window and start singing a brand new song."
The 11-year study described itself as the "first documentation of a repeated, dynamic cultural change occurring across multiple populations at such a large geographic scale."
What remains a mystery is why the whales all sing the same song, when presumably their efforts are meant to make them stand out against the pack.
"We think this male quest for song novelty is in the hope of being that little bit different and perhaps more attractive to the opposite sex," said Garland.
"This is then countered by the urge to sing the same tune, by the need to conform."
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