Some things never change: multi-decadal stability in humpback whale calling repertoire on Southeast Alaskan foraging grounds.

Academic Article


  • Investigating long term trends in acoustic communication is essential for understanding the role of sound in social species. Humpback whales are an acoustically plastic species known for producing rapidly-evolving song and a suite of non-song vocalizations ("calls") containing some call types that exhibit short-term stability. By comparing the earliest known acoustic recordings of humpback whales in Southeast Alaska (from the 1970's) with recordings collected in the 1990's, 2000's, and 2010's, we investigated the long-term repertoire stability of calls on Southeast Alaskan foraging grounds. Of the sixteen previously described humpback whale call types produced in Southeast Alaska, twelve were detected in both 1976 and 2012, indicating stability over a 36-year time period; eight call types were present in all four decades and every call type was present in at least three decades. We conclude that the conservation of call types at this temporal scale is indicative of multi-generational persistence and confirms that acoustic communication in humpback whales is comprised of some highly stable call elements in strong contrast to ever-changing song.
  • Authors

  • Fournet, Michelle
  • Gabriele, Christine M
  • Culp, David C
  • Sharpe, Fred
  • Mellinger, David K
  • Klinck, Holger
  • Publication Date

  • September 27, 2018
  • Published In

  • Scientific Reports  Journal
  • Keywords

  • Alaska
  • Animals
  • Humpback Whale
  • Vocalization, Animal
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Start Page

  • 13186
  • Volume

  • 8
  • Issue

  • 1