Question: If a Humpback breaches, no one is there to see it, does it still make a splash?? We’ll never know since the challenging weather and surf conditions on Wednesday caused us to cancel all our cruises.
Since there’s no Whale Watch action to report, here’s some interesting new research findings instead.
No one is really sure why male Humpbacks sing their very complex songs. We know that unlike in the bird world, where male songbirds sing to attract an individual female, female Humpbacks don’t approach individual male singers.
Recently, researchers working with Dr. Louis Herman from the University of Hawaii developed a technique to accurately measure the length of singing males, and they observed that sexually immature males join sexually mature male Humpbacks in the singing. By the way, sexual maturity was determined by the length of the animal – marine biologists in both Japan and the US were able to determine that 11.2 meters (or 36′ 9″) was the length at which a male Humpback reached sexual maturity (and they based this on the weight of the whales’ testes).
Watching this interaction between the males and the lack of individual attention paid them by the females, the researchers theorized a new possible meaning for the Humpbacks’ song.
They posit that the song may actually be sung as a way to attract any passing females to the arena in which the males are swimming. If this were the case, the more voices “joining the choir”, the more likely the song would be noticed, and the more likely females would swim over to the area where potential mates are waiting. The Humpback population as a whole would benefit from songs with more voices because of the increased opportunities for males to mate with the females drawn in by the asynchronous choir. And actually, the immature males may be benefiting too – though they’d be overpowered by mature males if they even attempted to mate with females, they may be learning both the social rules of mating and the songs.
And just in case you’re curious, and you really need to know the weight of a Humpbacks’ testes at sexual maturity, please email me directly! I’d be happy to share the research findings.