Monday, April 25, 2011

Difference Between Humans and Animals, Part XXII

Here's one shared by my friend-moving-to-Miami-tomorrow Jeff Brenman (goodbye Jeff). Apparently, whales have hit songs just like we do:
the team had to listen to 745 songs in total from six whale populations across the South Pacific over the 11-year period. The researchers identified 11 distinctly different styles (audio). Sometimes the "hit song" contained snippets from previous seasons, sometimes it was entirely revolutionary. But at any given time and place, there was only one song.
And like us, hits come and go:
What's more, the popular song switched incredibly rapidly; it took only 2 to 3 months for whales in a given region to entirely change their tune, the team reports online today in Current Biology.
Also like us, it's all about the ladies and all about the remix (earlier):
For male whales, singing is known to be a mating behavior, and Garland calls the results a "weird interaction of constrained novelty" where each whale wants to one-up the whale next to it but still feels pressure to conform enough that it doesn't stand out as an oddball.
But unlike us, their stars are too big to be studied:
his is extremely difficult to do, as humpbacks are too large to be put in captivity for study, and no good methods for tracking individual mating patterns exist.


  1. I like these posts, H. At some point I hope to see a summary of your perspective (and how it's changed, if it has) and what your tentative conclusions are.

  2. Ha, I think you said that before somewhere around number 10. Not sure what my answer would be now. Maybe at 50. Any thoughts yourself?

  3. Ha, I'll keep saying it until I see an answer.

    I think it's interesting because it seems we have opposite defaults. You default to humans being different than other animals, and I default to them being the same. Maybe we are converging with new info.

  4. You're right! I wonder why our defaults are different.


You are the reason why I do not write privately. I would love to hear your thoughts, whether you agree or not.