Songs of male humpback whales, Megaptera novaeangliae, are involved in intersexual interactions

Smith, J.N., Goldizen, A. W., Dunlop, R. A. and Noad, M. J. (2008) Songs of male humpback whales, Megaptera novaeangliae, are involved in intersexual interactions. Animal Behaviour, 76 2: 467-477. doi:10.1016/j.anbehav.2008.02.013

Author Smith, J.N.
Goldizen, A. W.
Dunlop, R. A.
Noad, M. J.
Title Songs of male humpback whales, Megaptera novaeangliae, are involved in intersexual interactions
Journal name Animal Behaviour   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0003-3472
Publication date 2008-08-01
Year available 2008
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1016/j.anbehav.2008.02.013
Open Access Status Not yet assessed
Volume 76
Issue 2
Start page 467
End page 477
Total pages 11
Place of publication United Kingdom
Publisher Academic Press
Language eng
Subject C1
970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences
060801 Animal Behaviour
Abstract Male humpback whales produce complex songs during the breeding season, yet the singing behaviour of males and whether songs function in male contests and/or through female choice are still poorly understood. We investigated song function by obtaining simultaneous observations of the positions and movements of singing and nonsinging whales in real time during their migration off the east coast of Australia. We collected movement data by acoustic tracking using a hydrophone array, land-based visual tracking and observations from a small boat. Of the 114 singers analysed, 66 (58%) associated with conspecifics. Singers were significantly more likely to join groups containing a motherecalf pair than other groups. Males started to sing after joining groups only if they consisted of a motherecalf pair not escorted by another male. Singers also associated longer and sang for a significantly greater proportion of time with motherecalf pairs than any other group type. Associating with motherecalf pairs has been shown to be a reproductively successful strategy for males. In contrast, whales that joined singers were usually lone males; these associations were brief and singers typically stopped singing in the presence of other males. This is the highest reported incidence in humpback whales of males singing when escorting females and supports an intersexual function of song in humpback whales. We suggest that males joining singers are prospecting for females rather than engaging in male social ordering and that singing may incur the cost of attracting competing males.
Keyword acoustic tracking
humpback whale
Megaptera novaeangliae
sexual selection
social interaction
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: 2009 Higher Education Research Data Collection
School of Biological Sciences Publications
Ecology Centre Publications
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Citation counts: TR Web of Science Citation Count  Cited 48 times in Thomson Reuters Web of Science Article | Citations
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Created: Tue, 10 Feb 2009, 22:14:37 EST by Gail Walter on behalf of School of Biological Sciences