Humpback whales are well-known for the loud noises they produce, but it seems like not all whale sounds are so powerful. Their usual calls can be heard even 20 miles away, but some new recordings have just discovered that whale calves whisper to their mothers. These calls can be heard only when you approach them.
Scientists started debating on the role of these whispers, and they discovered that the whales might be communicating like that to avoid predators. If they cannot hear them, and thus not detect their presence, killer whales are less likely to hunt and prey on them.
Looking at the lifestyle of humpback whales and their calves
A team of scientists from Aarhus University in Denmark, led by Dr. Simone Videsen, developed a study in which they analyzed a group of whales. Thus, they followed two mothers and eight calves and looked at their lifestyle. They wanted to learn what happened during the first months in the life of a humpback whale.
They attached suction cups to the whales’ bodies, which contained special devices. These recorded the movements performed by the whales and the sounds they produced. Thus, they were able to closely analyze the way in which the calves and their mothers communicate.
By looking at this interaction, they discovered that they often use weak sounds to talk to each other. At first, scientists were amazed, since humpback whales are known to be really noisy. This is the first study which uses such recorders to capture the communication patterns use by mother and calf.
Whales whisper between each other to hide from predators
Thus, they explain that the whales use this whispering technique to stay away from predators or from male humpbacks which are looking for a mate. Thus, calves succeed in staying close to their mothers before setting off on the journey to the Antarctic.
It is vital to remain close to their mothers while they are still young. This period is important, as it helps them prepare for the journey ahead by storing fat and feeding on sustainable food. Also, whale mothers and their calves are more likely to gather where ship noises are more powerful, as they can mask their whispering.
This discovery is important, as it helps with the conservation of humpback whales. There are only two main humpback populations, one in the northern hemisphere and one in the southern hemisphere. Scientists want to protect these populations, as these whales reproduce slowly and stay with their calves until they turn one.
Image Source: Flickr