The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

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Date: Sun, 21 Oct 2001 23:47:20 -0400
From: Tom Ritchford <>
Subject: [extreme] fashions in animal music

Date: Sun, 28 Jan 2001 10:01:32 -0800
Subject: Re: animal intentions and random 'looping' in nature

Thought some might find this of interest:

Musical crazes occasionally sweep through the deep blue sea, as surely as
they sweep through the world of teenagers. Male humpback whales readily
learn and "sing" radically new songs from other whales, according to
research published in today's issue of Nature. The phenomenon was likened by
one expert to the "Beatles invasion" of U.S. musical tastes in the
mid-1960s. The discovery strengthens growing suspicions that at least some
higher animals' behavior isn't totally guided by genetically encoded rules.
Rather, they possess a form of culture" that can be passed on
nongenetically. In this case, the whales learned a new musical repertoire
from other whales, instead of being restricted to tunes programmed into
their DNA. Scientists have long known that humpbacks slowly change their
songs over time. But this is the first known instance in which the creatures
rapidly switched to a significantly different tune introduced by a foreign
population of whales, according to the research team led by Michael J. Noad
of the University of Sydney in Australia. Analyzing tape-recorded sounds
from more than 100 male humpbacks, Noad discovered that over several months,
a radically new tune sung by two humpbacks from the west coast of Australia
was picked up by numerous other whales on the east coast.
The shift in whale songs is "like going from rock to Sid Vicious," Noad
observed during a phone interview. Among the Australian humpback whales,
"the new song has become the 'flavor of the month.' ".....
Why would humpback males switch tunes so fast and radically, as if switching
platters from Bing Crosby to David Bowie? For now, experts can only
speculate. One possibility is that by singing a different tune, a male
humpback is likelier to stand out from the crowd. Hence, Noad speculates,
it's likelier to attract the attention of a female humpback.....  ................ extreme NY calendar. ......... a new fortune every minute.  .................. Many, many photos.



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