Explained: The significance of a new whale song recorded in the Indian Ocean

In a paper published last week in a journal Research on endangered species, the authors described a new whale song, suggesting the existence of a population previously unknown. Researchers analyzed footage from three locations in the western Indian Ocean from where they discovered a unique whale song.

Why do whales sing and how does it sound?

Not all whales sing. It has been found that only some, like the whale, sing songs.

Whales use songs to communicate and socialize. Their songs can be characterized as clicks, whistles, and impulse calls, or a composition of “moans, snores, chirps, and cries,” as described in Current Biology.

According to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), whales use clicks to navigate and recognize the environment as sound bounces off objects, helping whales determine their shape. Whales, on the other hand, use whistles and impulses during social activities.

Can people hear whale songs?

According to Current Biology, whale frequencies are usually below 4 kHz (the range of human hearing is between 20 Hz and 20 kHz). Some songs with blue and fine whales are so low in frequency that human ears can be inaudible. The magazine further says that whale songs can last between 6-35 minutes, and it has been found that some individual whales sing for 22 hours.

What new song did the researchers record?

The researchers recorded a unique song off the coast of Oman in the north of the Arabian Sea, in the west of Chagos Archipalego and in Madagascar in the southwest of the Indian Ocean. Because it is the only blue whale song they have identified in the western Arabian Sea, researchers have dubbed it the “Northwest Indian Ocean”.

Researchers believe the source is the blue whale or Bryde’s whale, as both species have been previously documented in Oman. “Given that this species of song has not been reported before, its presence in a large geographical region indicates the probable existence of a previously undefined population of blue whales in the western Indian Ocean,” they noted.

“Our observation and initial assessment of this new species / acoustic song population, and thus the potentially different biological populations of blue whales in the Northwest Indian Ocean, should lead to targeted research to better understand this, especially in light of conservation implications,” they added. are.