Whales engage in polite conversation

Scientists are beginning to be able to identify individual whales by the unique clicks the giant ocean-going mammals make to communicate with other whales, and an extension of that research has found that whales in groups seem to vary the interval of the clicks to avoid interrupting one another.

“One exciting aspect of individual identification is the study of social communication and acoustic manners, i.e. are whales good listeners or do they interrupt each other?” Natalia Sidorovskaia of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette wrote in a paper.

For her study of whale clicks, which are fast and confusing if they overlap, Sidorovskaia’s research group developed tools to find rhythms in the clicks of sperm and beaked whales and associate those with individuals.

Her conclusion, to be presented at this week’s meeting of the Acoustical Society of America in San Antonio, Texas, was that “whales are polite listeners; they do not interrupt each other.”

Jim Dawson reports for Inside Science News Service.

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Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by Michael Zalar on 10/21/2009 - 01:13 pm.

    Ah, if we could only get Congress and the talk show hosts to act like whales.

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