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Bowhead Whale Songs

April 9, 2018

The songs of Arctic bowhead whales are constantly changing.


Bowhead whale and calf. (NOAA/National Ocean Service)

Bowhead whale and calf. (NOAA/National Ocean Service)


Jazz singers of the sea.  I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

(Bowhead whale song)

Bowhead whales sing a large variety of songs that are constantly changing, which sets them apart from other cetaceans. This according to a report in Biology Letters. University of Washington oceanographer Kate Stafford and her team began recording the endangered whales in the icy wat ers off the coast of Greenland in 2007.

KATE STAFFORD (University of Washington):

We never recorded the same song in more than one year. So they’re constantly innovating.


In contrast, she says all of the humpback whales in a population pretty much sound the same. And the bowhead’s closest relatives, right whales, don’t even sing at all. Stafford says there is still much to learn about the brain structures and ecological factors that might account for these differences. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

(bowhead whale songs)

Story by Susanne Bard

Learn more about bowhead whale songs