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Photo by Marty Wolff They produce a series of repetitious noises at varying frequencies, and these sequences are known as whale songs. Marine biologists say the songs are among the most complex in the entire animal kingdom. And although humpback whale songs are famous, researchers are finding that other species of large whales also sing complex songs. Male humpback whales are often heard singing on calving grounds during the breeding season. Researchers like Dr. Jim Darling from Whale Trust have studied these songs in an effort to determine why whales sing. Why are the whales singing? Well, the bottom line is researchers don't know. There have been several ideas proposed and investigated, including whether songs attract females, ward off other males, or define territory. However, none of these theories have been proven conclusively. In fact, some recent studies have shown that males songs actually attract other males, How can you hear the songs? If you're here during whale season (from December though April, or even May), you have several choices while on Maui. Grab a mask and snorkel, put your head under the ocean and listen. The closer the whales are, the louder their song will be. Of course, it helps to be in an area that whales frequent, like the Humpback Whale Marine Sanctuary (see the map on page 60). Black Rock Beach in Kaanapali is a great place, as the sound vibrates off the underwater coral wall where the sound is intensified. Another option is to go on a whale watching cruise that has a hydrophone. This is a microphone they place underwater to broadcast live whale songs on board through speakers. Also, some cruises combine whale rather than females, usually for brief, friendly encounters. While these underwater singers typically perform alone, they have been found singing while acting as an "escort" in the immediate vicinity of a female. On occasion, singing occurs in competitive groups comprised of one female and multiple males. What is agreed upon by most is that the songs probably facilitate the mating process in some way. While the songs seem to be connected to mating season, other sounds or calls can be heard throughout the year. How do whales make the songs? Humpbacks have no vocal cords and no air is emitted from their bodies while they're singing. So how do they produce this eerie, yet beautiful song? Researchers believe humpbacks "sing" by moving air through valves and sacks in their respiratory systems, similar to taking the end of an inflated balloon and slowly squeezing the air through it. watching with the opportunity to snorkel, so you may hear them through the hydrophone as well as underwater when you're swimming. Very cool. Other Noises Whales Make. In addition to songs, whales emit several other sounds referred to as "social sounds." Unlike whale songs, which are sung exclusively by males, "social sounds" are short noises made by both males and females. In addition to these "social sounds," whales also use surface-generated sounds like breaching and slapping to attract the attention of other whales in the area. On any given day, all male humpbacks in Hawaii will be singing the exact same song, even though the song changes as the season progresses.

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