Recordings Reveal That Baby Humpback Whales 'Whisper' To Their Mothers : The Two-Way Scientists recently tracked eight baby whales using special sound and movement recorders. The sounds the babies made turned out to be far different from the eerie songs of adult male humpbacks.

Recordings Reveal That Baby Humpback Whales 'Whisper' To Their Mothers

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We now present an editorial opinion. What this particular day of news really needs is the sound of a humpback whale.


INSKEEP: That's an adult male humpback whale. Scientists recently recorded sounds of baby whales, which sound very different. NPR's Nell Greenfieldboyce reports.

NELL GREENFIELDBOYCE, BYLINE: Cute little baby whales actually aren't so little.

SIMONE VIDESEN: When they're born, these whales are around 5 meters long. Pretty big, considering it's a baby.

GREENFIELDBOYCE: That's Simone Videsen at Aarhus University in Denmark. She says these babies must travel with their mothers thousands of miles during an annual migration to the food-rich waters of the Antarctic.

VIDESEN: These early life stages of wild whales are, like, so elusive because they're an aquatic animal - right? - so we can't follow them around all the time to see what they're doing.

GREENFIELDBOYCE: She and some colleagues recently tracked eight baby whales using special sound and movement recorders. These recorders had suction cups that let researchers just stick them on to the baby's skin.

VIDESEN: It can stay there for about a day and then it falls off. And then we can recollect it.

GREENFIELDBOYCE: And what they captured was the babbling of these baby whales.


VIDESEN: It's like a squeaky sound. And some of them are really, like, grunting sounds.


GREENFIELDBOYCE: And they're very quiet, like the baby humpback is whispering so it won't get overheard by somebody dangerous.

VIDESEN: There are lots of killer whales in the area which are predating on these calves. And they can use the sounds between mother and calfs as, like, homing cues.

GREENFIELDBOYCE: So why do the babies say anything at all? In the journal Functional Ecology, the researchers report that baby whales mostly whisper when they're swimming. So maybe these intimate sounds help their mothers keep track of them in murky waters. Nell Greenfieldboyce, NPR News.

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