Why do male whales make such complex songs? And what are they communicating? Dr. Ellen Garland has been analyzing sound arrangements made by the tens of thousands of whales living in separate communities across the South Pacific region. Her goal: To map whale song.
When she color-coded the data and started to track it over time and location, a first, she discovered a fascinating pattern that emerged year after year: Humpback whales have cultural transmission, meaning they learn and pass information across different groups. Whalesong spreads like popular music. This PBS Nova clip, Whale Songs in the South Pacific, features her incredible discovery.
Related book recommendation: Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises: A Natural History and Species Guide.