Science Writing (EFE).- Male humpback whales off the eastern coast of Australia have changed their behavior to attract females. While a couple of decades ago they opted for singing, that technique is being replaced by the fight against their competitors.
Scientists led by the University of Queensland (Australia) analyzed nearly two decades of data on humpback whale behavior and are now publishing their results in the journal Communications Biology.
In 1997, singing males were “almost twice as likely to try to reproduce with a female than non-singing males,” says researcher Rebecca Dunlop, one of the study’s signatories.
However, in 2015 the situation changed, as males that did not sing were almost five times more likely to be seen trying to reproduce than those that did.
For the researcher, this is a “pretty big” change in behavior and suggests that humans are not the only ones who are subject to “big social changes in terms of mating rituals.”
More males, more competition for love
Scientists believe the change has occurred progressively as stocks recovered after the widespread cessation of whaling in the 1960s.
With more males, the competition is fierce and the last thing one of them wants to do is announce with his song that there is a female in the area, because it could attract other males, in which situation they must compete or abandon, according to Dunlop.
Among humpback whales, physical aggression tends to take the form of lunging and head-butting attempts, which carry the risk of physical injury, so “males must weigh the costs and benefits of each tactic.”
The scientist indicated that “it will be fascinating to see how the mating behavior of whales continues to be shaped in the future.”