Whales use song as sonar, psychologist proposes

Science Daily | 30/07/2018

A psychologist has proposed that humpback whales may use song for long-range sonar. It’s the singing whale, not the listening whale who is doing most of the analysis. If correct, the model should change the direction of how we study whales.

Any quick internet search for recordings of humpback whale song returns audio compilations that can receive tens of thousands, if not millions, of visits.

With such quantifiable popularity, you might ask, “Who doesn’t love listening to whale song?” One surprising answer might be, “whales,” according to an intriguing model developed by a University at Buffalo researcher.

It’s not that listening whales ignore the singers of their species. The question for Eduardo Mercado III, a professor in UB’s Department of Psychology, is how humpback whales perceive the song, which is among the most sophisticated acoustic performances in the animal kingdom.

Mercado has published a paper in the journal Frontiers in Psychology that hypothesizes whale song helps singers perform a type of auditory scene analysis.