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July 30, 2008

Blue Whales’ Songs Deepen

When I read the headline of yesterday’s New York Times article, “Whales’ Lower-Pitch Sound Has Experts Guessing,” I assumed the lede would be something like, “Whales’ songs are deepening as they grow depressed about global warming.” Just goes to show, I generally associate deeper-pitched sounds with sadness and mourning — and I assign human characteristics to animals perhaps too zealously… As it turns out, the lower moans might portend good after all. The piece reports that the song of blue whales around the world has grown deeper — and scientists speculate that it could be because their population is on the rise since commercial whaling bans began to take effect in the 1970s. Males are the singers, and as the article states, “Female blue whales choose their mates based on size, a selection process that has fostered the species’ gargantuan proportions. And deeper might signal bigger.” Population numbers are apparently hard to come by and vary, but one scientist is quoted as saying, “It’s hard to see anything that would have impacted all of those populations and made them all decrease frequency other than the increase in the population.” If the speculation is correct, what great news for these incredible creatures. I wonder if there’s anyone who doesn’t recall learning that superlative from their parents and teachers: “…largest animal ever.” [Image via]