Humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) song unit and phrase repertoire progression on a subarctic feeding ground

Edda E. Magnusdottir*, Patrick J. O. Miller, Rangyn Lim, Marianne H. Rasmussen, Marc O. Lammers, Joerundur Svavarsson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


The songs of the male humpback whales have traditionally been associated with breeding activities at low latitude breeding grounds during winter. This study provides the first detailed analysis of humpback whale songs recorded in the subarctic waters of Iceland using passive acoustic recorders. Recordings were collected during three winter seasons: 2008-2009, 2009-2010, and 2011 during which singing was detected in all seasons. Peak song occurrence was during January-February in all years; this coincides with the timing of the peak breeding season of humpback whales in the Northern hemisphere. A total of 2810 song units from all years were measured and statistically divided into 14 groups, which constructed 25 phrases. The song unit repertoires included stable song unit types that occurred frequently in songs during all years while the occurrence of other song unit types varied more between years. Around 60% of the phrases were conserved between the first two study seasons, while the majority of phrases found during the last study season had not been observed before. This study indicates the importance of a subarctic feeding ground for song progression and song exchange and possibly as an opportunistic mating ground for migrating or overwintering humpback whales. (C) 2015 Acoustical Society of America.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3362-3374
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of the Acoustical Society of America
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2015




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