Scientists have figured out approximate meanings for some whale songs. A team from the University of Queensland studied migrating east humpback whales travelling Australia’s east coast. From high-pitched squeaks, shrieks and cries to purrs, groans and low yaps, some noises represented aggression and competition, others affection and concern. Some of the sounds recorded could have multiple meanings depending on how they’re grouped, but some appeared to have one clear meaning, such as the ‘purr’ sound from males used as a mating sound. Other higher-frequency signals are used when males are competing for the affections of a female. Blows are likely used as an aggressive signal, often heard in competitive groups where there are numerous males with 1 female. The males are probably jostling to be the primary escort for the female, and can become quite aggressive towards one another.
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