Whale Whispers Keep Babies Safe

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(Duke University/Douglas Nowacek)

North Atlantic Right Whale Mamas Whisper to Their Babies to Keep Them Safe

By Jason Daley Smithsonian.com

At nearly 50 feet long, North Atlantic right whales are so large that most living things in the sea shouldn’t worry them—but that’s not the case for their babies. Newborn calves are vulnerable to attacks by sharks and orcas. To keep them safe, a new study has found, right whale mamas take things down a notch, “whispering” to their young so they don’t attract any hungry predators lurking nearby.

Right whales typically communicate with one another using a vocalization called an up-call, a rising “whoop” sound that can last two seconds and travels very far. With their babies, however, they use a quieter, shorter grunting sound that can only be heard in the immediate vicinity. The new study appears in the journal Biology Letters.

“They allow the mother and calf to stay in touch with each other without advertising their presence to potential predators in the area,” lead author Susan Parks, a marine biologist at Syracuse University, says in a press release.

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