“Our music changes and evolves over time. Old styles give way to new ones. Blues into rock and roll, and rock into punk. But these musical revolutions are not unique to us. Whales go through them, too.
“Humpback whales sing eerie, haunting songs… It’s only the males who sing and at any one time, every male sings the same tune. But like jazz musicians, they’ll rip off the classics, making small tweaks as they go. Their ever-changing music provides some of the best evidence yet that animals other than humans can pass on behaviors to each other, that they have their own culture.”
What Explains Bizarre Animal Behavior? Do animals copy each others’ behaviors, passing them from one generation to the next? How do these behaviors change over time and across locations?
And how did scientists go from not believing in animal culture to considering possible cultural traditions in the animal kingdom?
Pulitzer Prize-winning science journalist Ed Yong discusses these topics in this 2018 episode of Animalism from The Atlantic. He includes fascinating research about the patterns and structures of humpback whalesong, and how some songs could make their way around the globe after going viral across different whale communities.
Watch these related videos next:
• Elephant mom wisdom and sparrow songs: Is culture common in the animal world?
• Mapping whale songs in the South Pacific
• Why (and how) do whales sing?
• Explore Whale Songs and AI with Pattern Radio
• How to Speak Chimpanzee
• Long-tail macaques use stone tools to open shells