WHALE SOUNDS & SONGS (Free)
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The mechanisms used to produce whale sounds vary from one family to another. Marine mammals, such as whales, dolphins, and porpoises, are much more dependent on sound for communication and sensation than are land mammals, because other senses are of limited effectiveness in water. Sight is less effective for marine mammals because of the way water absorbs light. Smell also is limited, as molecules diffuse more slowly in water than in air, which makes smelling less effective. However, the speed of sound is roughly four times greater in water than in the atmosphere at sea level.
The word "song" is used to describe the pattern of regular and predictable sounds made by some species of whales, notably the Humpback Whale. This is included with or in comparison with music, and male humpback whales have been described as "inveterate composers" of songs that are "'strikingly similar' to human musical traditions". Male Humpback whales sing only on calving grounds and only in the mating period and humpback songs are similar, almost identical, within a single population. It has been suggested that humpback songs communicate male fitness to female whales.
The click sounds made by Sperm whales and dolphins are not strictly song, but the clicking sequences have been suggested to be individualized rhythmic sequences that communicate the identity of a single whale to other whales in its group and allows the groups to coordinate foraging activities.
Two groups of whales, the humpback whale and the subspecies of blue whale found in the Indian Ocean, are known to produce a series of repetitious sounds at varying frequencies known as whale song. Marine biologist Philip Clapham describes the song as "probably the most complex in the animal kingdom."
Male humpback whales perform these vocalizations only during the mating season, and so it is believed the purpose of songs is to aid sexual selection. Whether the songs are a competitive behavior between males seeking the same mate, a means of defining territory or a "flirting" behavior from a male to a female is not known and the subject of ongoing research. Males have been observed singing while simultaneously acting as an escort whale in the immediate vicinity of a female. Singing has also been recorded in competitive groups of whales that are composed of one female and multiple males.
A collection of four or six sound units is known as a sub-phrase, lasting perhaps ten seconds (see also phrase (music)). A collection of two sub-phrases is a phrase. A whale will typically repeat the same phrase over and over for two to four minutes. This is known as a theme. A collection of themes is known as a song. The whale will repeat the same song, which last up to 30 or so minutes, over and over again over the course of hours or even days. This "Russian doll" hierarchy of sounds has captured the imagination of scientists.[weasel words]
All the whales in an area sing virtually the same song at any point in time and the song is constantly and slowly evolving over time. For example, over the course of a month a particular unit that started as an upsweep (increasing in frequency) might slowly flatten to become a constant note. Another unit may get steadily louder. The pace of evolution of a whale's song also changes—some years the song may change quite rapidly, whereas in other years little variation may be recorded.
Dolphin sounds and songs are also another nature sound that people use to relax and sleep.
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