Researchers from the University of Queensland have found that humpback whales can learn difficult songs from whales in different regions.
The study was led by Dr Jenny Allen from the university and looked closely at the song patterns of male humpback whales from each region between 2009 and 2015.
Dr Allen was surprised to find that the whales transmitted the songs of other whales with “remarkable accuracy”.
“By listening to the Australian population of humpback whales, we were able to see if the songs changed in any way when sung by whales in New Caledonia,” said Dr Allen. “We found that they actually learned the exact sounds, without simplifying or omitting anything.”
According to Dr. Allen, it is very rare for such cultural exchange to be documented on “such a large scale” in a non-human species.
“Having a thorough understanding of a species is known to greatly improve the effectiveness of conservation and management methods,” said Dr Allen.
“We now have a more holistic picture of the behaviors, movements and interactions of different populations of humpback whales, including how they transmit culture.”
The study was published in Scientific reports.