Baby whales have to learn how to talk, too

Baby whales aren't very good at making various calls, but a new study shows that even adults continue to improve their calling techniques.

Via Atlas Obscura:

As a post-doctoral researcher in biology at Syracuse University, Root-Gutteridge analyzed a trove of recordings made over a 17-year period. To collect the calls, scientists sunk hydrophones into the water, or adhered recording tags to whales' bodies with suction cups. (These stayed on for between 12 minutes and 48 hours.) Researchers identified whales by comparing photographs of distinctive rough patches on the whales' skin to images in a catalog maintained by the Right Whale Consortium. They then sorted the individuals into age categories: calf, juvenile, adults aged 15-25, and adults older than 25. Scientists then analyzed the calls, tracking attributes such as duration and chaos—essentially, the amount of grit, growl, and scratch that accidentally leaps out when, for instance, you strain for a note you can't quite reach.

Fun fact: northern right whales reach adulthood around nine years of age. Not so fun fact: they lost 2% of their population last year.

A lifetime of changing calls: North Atlantic right whales, Eubalaena glacialis, refine call production as they age (via Atlas Obscura)

Image: Wikimedia