Humpback Whales Plagiarize the Tunes of Other Whales (Even Oceans Away)

Humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) aren't just talented singers, they learn and steal each other's songs. And, according to a new study, they can pull off those musical thefts even when there are whole continents separating them from their targets. An international team of researchers analyzed recordings of male humpbacks singing in the waters around Madagascar and Gabon, populations separated by the entire landmass of Africa. They broke down those songs into units (individual sounds, like a moan or a burble), phrases (arrangements of units) and themes (complete songs, composed of standard phrases). They found that between 2001 and 2005, the whales in the two populations appeared to lift ideas and whole songs out of one another's' songbooks, and repeat them in their home waters.

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