Wildlife

Baby whales ‘whisper’ to mothers to avoid predators

Newborn humpback whales and their mothers whisper to each other to escape potential predators, scientists reported on Wednesday, revealing the existence of a previously unknown survival technique.

Whales are known for their loud calls, congregating fellow members of the pod. Male humpback whales also emit reverberating sounds to attract females during the mating season.

But this is the first time scientists have observed a unique, intimate form of communication between humpback mothers and calves.

Potential predators such as killer whales could listen to their conversations and use that as a cue to locate the calf and predate on it, if the conversations were louder.

While a male’s cry can resound over an area covering several kilometres, the pairs in the study could only hear each others’ calls within a distance of less than 100 metres.

The faint sounds are also a way to keep mate-seeking males from interfering in the humpback’s nurturing, a crucial time in the newborn’s life as it braces for an arduous 8 000km journey back home to the Antarctic, the researchers speculated.

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