An Oceans Abcdarium created by the University of Applied Sciences in Mainz, Germany

Whale Sounds

Lore Müller

Complex patterns of growls, moans, clicks, whistles, and squeals unfold when listening to the sounds of a whale. While some more simple vocalizations are used primarily for echolocation, complex sequences fulfil social purposes; when humpback whales for example gather during the mating season, males declaim their songs for many hours in order to attract females. Recurring sequences shape individual patterns of vocalizations. Although they share some commonalities, each species, each population, and each individual whale has their own songs characteristics. Some findings in humpback whales seem to indicate that songs are being adapted over time to their own living conditions and genetic predispositions. However, in sperm whales, there are dialects that vary over time and space, indicating that there might be something like distinct cultures amongst this species.The animation visualizes this hidden world of songs of the deep.

Sources: Attenborough, David, Life on Earth, London, 1979.
Mercado, Eduardo III, “Song Morphing by Humpback Whales: Cultural or Epiphenomenal?”, Front. Psychol, vol. 11, issue, 574403, (2021).

Hersh, Taylor A., “Dialects over Space and Time: Cultural Identity and Evolution in Sperm Whale Codas.

Tyack, Peter L. and Edward H. Miller: Vocal Anatomy, Acoustic Communication and Echolocation, in: Marine Mammal Biology: An Evolutionary Approach, edited byb Rus Hoelzel, (2002):142-184.