Humpback whales don’t compete with boat noise

Male humpbacks increase their volume when the wind is noisy, but not around noisy boats

Researchers found that while humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) sing louder when the wind is noisy, they don’t have the same reaction to boat engines. That’s surprising, since both sounds have a similar frequency. That quirk raises questions about how it may affect breeding and behavior.

“We don’t know yet if this lack of response to boat noise is making whales communicate less effectively or making breeding practices more difficult,” said Elisa Girola, a professor at the University of Queensland and lead author of the study published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B Biological Sciences. “Male humpback whale singing is probably used to mediate reproductive interactions, but we can’t say if vessel noise is interfering.”

Read more from the University of Queensland.

Header Image: Researchers recorded humpback whales off the Queensland coast. Credit: University of Queensland