May 20, 2017

Humpback whales whisper to each other to avoid danger

Michael Dwyer / AP

Baby humpback whales and their mothers whisper to each other when swimming through the ocean, according to a new paper published in Functional Ecology.

Why it matters: This is the first such discovery of humpback whales' communication patterns that reveals their ability to whisper to one another. Whispering is one way for the calves and mothers to avoid dangerous situations when they're in vulnerable positions — namely, low-volume communication is a strategic way for them to avoid killer whales looking for an easy meal.

How they did it: The researchers followed eight calves and two mothers for 48 hours each using detachable acoustic tags to record their communication. They captured recordings as the whales swam off the Australian coast.

One fun thing: They also captured what they interpreted as the calvesasking their mothers for more milk when they were hungry, described as sound like "two balloons being rubbed together."

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