Baby Humpback Whales Whisper To Their Moms To Avoid Killer Whales

Posted: Apr 26 2017, 11:50am CDT | by , in News | Latest Science News

 
Baby Humpback Whales Whisper to Their Moms to Avoid Killer Whales
This image shows a mother-calf pair in Exmouth Gulf. Credit: Fredrik Christiansen
  • 'Whispering' keeps humpbacks safe from killer whales, study finds

It looks like baby humpback whales whisper softly to their moms in the deep blue sea. Their moms in turn protect them from predators such as killer whales who are prowling around in order to make a quick meal of a baby humpback whale.

Newly born humpback whales whisper to their mothers. Thus they are not heard by killer whales which are out to hunt them and their mothers chase away the killer whales after hearing the baby whispers.

Researchers discovered this clever natural adaptation between mother and baby in humpback whales in the wild. The humpback whales were tagged and thus the researchers came upon this scheme which was both interesting and marvelous in its nature.

Ecologists used tags on both mother humpbacks and their babies in order to learn more about them. The first few months of a baby’s life are critical since it may be swallowed by a killer whale in the vicinity.

While not much is known about these whales, what little we do know points towards the symbiosis between mothers and their children for the survival and ultimate autonomy of the latter.

During the voyage of both towards the feeding grounds, the babies whisper softly to their moms in order to let them know of any danger they may be facing.

It is a tough and arduous task for the babies as they travel alongside the mothers. Over 5000 miles are covered in the journey to a different habitat. The sea is unforgiving and the winds are merciless in their relentless onslaught.

Yet little could disrupt the critical bonding between mothers and infants among these humpback whales. Conservationists want this process to occur in a perfect manner so that the loss of any humpback babies does not occur.

Eight calves and two mothers were tagged. The sounds made by the baby humpback whales were also recorded with fidelity. The mothers and infants spent the majority of the time resting and nursing.

Different sounds were generated by babies to indicate whether they needed protection or wanted to be fed. Since all this communication took place in whispers, killer whales did not pick up any signs of it.

Loud ship noises often disrupt the mother-infant bonding process. Therefore the environmentalists and marine conservationists have issued guidelines for ships to stay away from the pathways followed by these whales.

Humpback whales are an interesting species and more research needs to be done on the habits and idiosyncrasies of these curious creatures of the deep.

The findings of this research are published in the journal Functional Ecology.

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