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Majestic fin whales

Icelandic whalers kill first fin whales in four years

As feared, whale hunters in Iceland have slaughtered at least two fin whales, the first...
hvalur-8-whaling-vessel

Majority of Icelandic people think whaling harms their country’s reputation

A survey of Icelandic people has confirmed that the majority believe whaling damages Iceland's reputation. ...
A magnificent sei whale © Christopher Swann

Japan Begins Commercial Whaling Season

Sei whale © Christopher Swann Japanese whalers have left port to begin this year's annual...

Pumps and conveyor belts. How could more whales help save us?

University of Alaska Fairbanks Master's student, Dana Bloch, retrieves a CTD that is used to...

Bowhead whales sing jazz songs

New research has revealed that not only do bowhead whales have the most diverse song range amongst whales, but that they may be singing their own vast and unique selection of ‘jazz’.

Kate Stafford, an oceanographer at the University of Washington’s Applied Physics Laboratory in Seattle, studied a large group of the whales, listening in to their underwater concerts. She was amazed by what she heard and recorded.

Stafford and three colleagues counted 184 distinct melodies over a three-year period sung by over 200 bowheads off the east coast of Greenland. This ranks bowheads as possibly the most prolific composers in the marine mammal and animal kingdom, with only song birds able to reach the same level.

Over the course of four winters, the free-form, jazz-like song types were never repeated, with an entire set of new songs used each season. Bowheads are far more versatile than other whales it would seem and appear to improvise new songs all the time.

Bowheads get their name from their distinctive arched upper jaw. The second species to become the primary target of commercial whaling, they were hunted to near extinction in the middle of the 20th century and four of the five remaining populations of bowhead whales are listed as Vulnerable, Endangered or Critically Endangered. Found only in Arctic and sub-Arctic regions, it would be difficult to confuse the bowhead whale with any other large whale as few range this far north except the occasional humpback or grey whale.

Full report available at: Biology Letters