Can Blue Whales Sing the Blues?

New research suggest that the songs of blue whales are becoming deeper. In in 1962, John Hildebrand found that the frequency of call was around 22Hz, below the range of our hearing, but last year had decreased to 15Hz. Hildebrand explains that frequency comes at a tradeoff with volume. He suggests the choice is conscious between a really loud song or one that will go really deep.

Why the change?

As their numbers have slowly increased after the devastation caused by whaling, they are having to communicate over smaller distances so their songs don’t need to be as loud and they can make them deeper.

Also of interest is that regional dialects in whale song exist. Those in the southern oceans tend to have a bit of twang and slower song, peppered with ya’ll, than there northern counterparts.

Of course all this discussion of Blues Whale got me thinking about one of my favorite all times bluesmen, John Lee Hooker. A little Tupelo below the fold.

Dr. M (1729 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Assistant Director of Science for the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, a National Science Foundation supported initiative. He has conducted deep-sea research for 20 years and published over 50 papers in the area. He has participated in and led dozens of oceanographic expeditions taken him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses on how energy drives the biology of marine invertebrates from individuals to ecosystems, specifically, seeking to uncover how organisms are adapted to different levels of carbon availability, i.e. food, and how this determines the kinds and number of species in different parts of the oceans. Craig’s research has been featured on National Public Radio, Discovery Channel, Fox News, National Geographic and ABC News. In addition to his scientific research, Craig also advocates the need for scientists to connect with the public and is the founder and chief editor of the acclaimed Deep-Sea News (, a popular ocean-themed blog that has won numerous awards. His writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web. His forthcoming book, Science of the South (, connects cultural icons of South such as pecan pie with the science behind them.

4 comments on “Can Blue Whales Sing the Blues?
  1. This is a good thing, as the higher-frequency whale distress call would have eventually (somehow) penetrated the vacuum of space and beckoned their angry extra-terrestrial brethren to earth, forcing the crew of the USS Enterprise to travel back to the 80s for a lame schtick about “nuclear wessels.”

  2. Oh,oh: sorry! should have read the article you refer to first, as it relates also the story about the humpback jamming!

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