(NEW SCIENTIST) Sometimes when you travel, you still betray where you came from when you open your mouth. The same thing seems to apply to humpback whales: features of their songs can reveal where they originally came from. What’s more, when whales travel their songs change as they pick up new tunes from whales they meet that have come from different regions.
“Our best analogy is hit human fashion and pop songs,” says Ellen Garland at the University of St Andrews in the UK. The sharing of whale song is a kind of cultural transmission that can give clues about where a whale has travelled on its migration, and where it started out. “We can pinpoint a population a whale has likely come from by what they are singing,” she says.