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Why (and how) do whales sing?

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Whale vocalizations are a bit of a mystery. We know that only the males of some baleen whales sing, but we’re not sure what those compositions—specifically structured phrases and melodies that repeat and evolve within their whale communities over many seasons—are communicating. Could it be a tool for finding a mate or deterring the competition? Could it be an important part of how they migrate? Or could they be communicating the story of their pod in a way we don’t yet understand?

TED Ed explores the research in the video above: Why do whales sing?

Follow that with this NPR story about acoustic biology researcher Katy Payne and her innovative discoveries around whalesong.

Explore more whale songs and sounds at Voices in the Sea, the Jupiter Foundation, and MailChimp’s playful Whale Synth.

We also recommend this excellent book: Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises: A Natural History and Species Guide.

Related videos: Baby humpbacks need 150 gallons of whale milk a day, a blue whale lunges for krill, and the mysterious song of the humpback whale.

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