AB 14:175-183 (2012)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/ab00390

Humpback whale song occurs extensively on feeding grounds in the western North Atlantic Ocean

Elizabeth T. Vu1,4,*, Denise Risch1, Christopher W. Clark2, Shonda Gaylord1, Leila T. Hatch3, Michael A. Thompson3, David N. Wiley3, Sofie M. Van Parijs1,2

1Northeast Fisheries Science Center, 166 Water Street, Woods Hole, Massachusetts 02543, USA
2Bioacoustics Research Program, Cornell University, New York 14850, USA
3Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, NOAA,175 Edward Foster Road, Scituate, Massachusetts 02066, USA
4Present address: Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive, Mail Code 0205, La Jolla, California 92093-0208, USA
*Email:

ABSTRACT: Male humpback whales produce complex, patterned songs that are traditionally heard on their breeding grounds. Short-term studies demonstrated that they also sing along migration routes and on higher-latitude feeding grounds. This study expands the current understanding of feeding-ground song by providing yearlong views of singing activity. Acoustic recordings were made in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, part of the western North Atlantic Ocean feeding grounds. Recordings were made in 2006 and 2008. Song occurred during all months except February 2006 and June 2008. Song occurred most frequently in November for both years (mean ± SE—2006: 18.26 ± 0.66 h with song d–1; 2008: 18.59 ± 0.82 h with song d−1). The longest song sessions occurred in April for both years (2220 ± 348, 1430 ± 274 s, respectively) in November and December for 2006, and in May for 2008. This study demonstrates that song occurs often, when whales arrive at the feeding grounds in early April. The occurrence and length of song sessions decrease during July and August when whales are observed to be feeding in the sanctuary. Song occurrence and song session length increase when most males prepare to migrate southward in October to December. Such patterns are congruent with the hypothesis of seasonal hormonal activity and its potential role in song production.


KEY WORDS: Song · Feeding grounds · Humpback whale · Megaptera novaeangliae


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Cite this article as: Vu ET, Risch D, Clark CW, Gaylord S and others (2012) Humpback whale song occurs extensively on feeding grounds in the western North Atlantic Ocean. Aquat Biol 14:175-183. https://doi.org/10.3354/ab00390

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