Baby humpback whales seem to whisper to their mothers, according to scientists who have captured the infant whales’ quiet grunts and squeaks.
(From NPR / By Nell Greenfieldboyce) — The recordings, described in the journal Functional Ecology, are the first ever made with devices attached directly to the calves.
“When they’re born, these whales are around 5 meters long,” says Simone Videsen at Aarhus University in Denmark, who notes that this is “pretty big considering it’s a baby.”
Calves must travel with their mothers for thousands of miles during an annual migration to the food-rich waters of the Antarctic. Exactly what happens during that period is a mystery.
“These early life stages of wild whales are so elusive because they’re an aquatic animal,” Videsen explains. “We can’t follow them around all the time to see what they’re doing.”
However, she and some colleagues recently were able to track eight baby whales, using special sound and movement recorders. These recorders had suction cups that let the researchers just stick them onto the babies’ skin. “It can stay there for about a day and then it falls off,” Videsen says.
The researchers weren’t sure exactly what they’d hear when they retrieved the devices and played the audio. It turns out that the babbling of baby whales is very different than the haunting, eerie songs sung by adult male humpbacks.