Whales sing to raise the favor of the females, not to keep unpleasant rivals from the neck.
Read aloud Male humpback whales sing to charm solitary females? and not to deter or challenge competitors for their favor. This is what Australian researchers conclude from observations of 114 singing whales that they had collected over the course of three years. Accordingly, the males have their characteristic singing sounded mainly when they are near a mother-child pair that is not accompanied by another male. However, this seduction strategy has an undesirable side effect: potential rivals simply need to prick their ears and follow the chants to find the fertile females. In September and October of 2002, 2003 and 2004, the scientists monitored a 15-kilometer radius off the east coast of Australia, watching for humpback whales from boats and a hill. In addition, five submarine microphones located 1.5 kilometers off the coast registered the sounds of animals traveling en route from their feeding grounds near the equator to their breeding grounds in the south.

The yield was 114 singing males, of whom had 66 contacts with conspecifics, the researchers report. Of these 66, most of them joined such groups as mothers with their calves? provided they were not accompanied by a male. In such a society, the males also sang longer and longer than if they accompanied other species. However, the behavior of the singers was particularly interesting when another, lonely male joined their small group: in these cases, they immediately stopped singing.

This clearly indicates that the songs were not intended to deter the rival? after all, the singing males would have stepped up their efforts rather than stopping them, explain Smith and his colleagues. Consequently, the songs should seduce the accompanied females or give them a good impression. Whether the males succeed with this strategy, the researchers can not yet say, at least so far? in fact, no actual sex act has ever been observed in the animals. Also why the males prefer mothers with young calves, is so far unclear. They may initiate the next fertile phase by singing to the females, or they may increase the likelihood of being in place during such a phase. Father feelings, however, are not certain: Humpback whale males have no part in the breeding of offspring.

Joshua Smith (University of Queensland, Brisbane): et al .: Animal Behavior, Online Preliminary Publication, DOI: 10.1016 / j.anbehav.2008.02.013 ddp / science.de? Ilka Lehnen-Beyel advertisement

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