Audio: Listen to the first-ever recordings of right whales breaking into song

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  • On this episode of the Mongabay Newscast, we speak with Jessica Crance, a research biologist with the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) who recently discovered right whales singing for the first time ever.
  • Gunshot calls made by right whales are exactly what their name suggests they are — loud, concussive bursts of noise. Perhaps that doesn’t sound terribly musical, but the critically endangered eastern population of North Pacific right whales appears to use gunshot calls in a repeating pattern — the first instance ever recorded of a right whale population breaking into song.
  • Jessica Crance led the research team at NOAA that documented North Pacific right whales breaking into song in the Bering Sea. On this episode of the Mongabay Newscast, Crance will play recordings of two different right whale song types and discuss what we know about why the critically endangered whales might be singing in the first place.

Today we speak with Jessica Crance, a research biologist with the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) who recently discovered right whales singing for the first time ever.

Listen here:

Some whales, like humpbacks and bowheads, are known for their mellifluous songs. But none of the three species of right whale has ever been known to sing. As far as scientists knew, right whale vocalizations consisted entirely of individual calls, as opposed to the repeated, patterned phrases of true whale songs.

Gunshot calls are known to be part of the North Pacific right whale’s vocal repertoire, as well as what are known as screams, upcalls, and warbles. Gunshot calls made by right whales are exactly what their name suggests they are — loud, concussive bursts of noise. Perhaps that doesn’t sound terribly musical, but according to a study published in The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America this month, the critically endangered eastern population of North Pacific right whales appears to use gunshot calls in a repeating pattern — the first instance ever recorded of a right whale population breaking into song.

Jessica Crance led the research team at NOAA that documented North Pacific right whales breaking into song in the Bering Sea. On this episode of the Mongabay Newscast, Crance will play recordings of two different right whale song types and discuss what we know about why the critically endangered whales might be singing in the first place.

NOAA Fisheries scientist Jessica Crance deploys a sonobuoy to acoustically monitor for North Pacific right whale calls. Photo Credit: NOAA.

A North Pacific right whale. Photo Credit: NOAA.

CITATION

• Crance, J. L., Berchok, C. L., Wright, D. L., Brewer, A. M., & Woodrich, D. F. (2019). Song production by the North Pacific right whale, Eubalaena japonica. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 145(6), 3467-3479. doi:10.1121/1.5111338

Article source: Mongabay