Aussies Blubbering About Decoding Whale Speak

Scientists put meaning to clicks & squeals
By Colleen Barry,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 8, 2007 6:12 AM CST
Aussies Blubbering About Decoding Whale Speak
A humpback whale in New Zealand's Cook Strait, 27 June 2007.   (Getty Images)

Australian scientists believe they've begun to decode the meaning behind whale sounds after extensive study of humpbacks off the nation's coast. They identified at least 34 types of whale calls, including a male purring sound associated with female wooing, high-frequency cries during disagreements, and a "wop" sound often exchanged between a mother whale and her offspring.

"The 'wop' was probably one of the most common sounds I heard, probably signifying a mum-calf contact call," explained one researcher, who noted similarities between whale and human social interaction. "They're obviously marine mammals, separated from terrestrial mammals for a long, long time, yet still seem to follow the same basic communication system," she said. (Read more humpback whale stories.)

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