Bowhead whale songs sung by females in Disko Bay, Greenland

Outi Tervo, Mads Christoffersen, Timothy FØrasier, Camilla Ilmoni, Susan Parks, Lee A. Miller, Reinhardt Kristensen

Publikation: Bidrag til bog/antologi/rapport/konference-proceedingKonferenceabstrakt i proceedingsForskning


Song is commonly associated with breeding behaviour with singing primarily occurring during the breeding season and in most species, singers are male. Bowhead whales produce complex song, primarily during the late fall through spring, a period believed to correspond to the mating season for this species. Bowhead whale song has long been hypothesized to be produced by male whales as a reproductive advertisement; however, no data on the sex of singers has ever been reported. In this study, we determine the sex of singing bowhead whales Balaena mysticetus in Disko Bay, West Greenland, by localizing singers real-time with a stereo-hydrophone setup (70 cm hydrophone spacing) and collecting biopsy samples for sex determination. Each of the sampled singers (N=3) in this study was female. From a total of 22 biopsies collected in March 2010 the sex ratio was skewed towards females (95% females (n=21): 5% males (n=1)). These data clearly demonstrate that female bowhead whales sing, however more samples are necessary to assess whether male bowhead whales also sing. The suggested functions of female song for other species include territorial defense, mate guarding, coordination of breeding activities, and more rarely mate attraction. In the North Atlantic right whale, Eubalaena glacialis, a closely related species to the bowhead whale, the female produces simple calls during sexual interactions that attract other males to mating groups. We suggest that our results may indicate that the elaborate songs of female bowhead whales may function for mate attraction and represent a novel example of partial courtship role reversal in mammals.
Titel19th Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals
Antal sider1
StatusUdgivet - 2011
Begivenhed19th Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals - Tampa, USA
Varighed: 27. nov. 20112. dec. 2011
Konferencens nummer: 19


Konference19th Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals


Tervo, O., Christoffersen, M., FØrasier, T., Ilmoni, C., Parks, S., Miller, L. A., & Kristensen, R. (2011). Bowhead whale songs sung by females in Disko Bay, Greenland. I 19th Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals