Whale songs are some of the most hauntingly beautiful and bizarre noises in the world. But if it hadn’t been for acoustic biologist Katy Payne, we’d probably still be dismissing them as mere sounds — like the noises our own cats and dogs make when they’re hungry, frightened, interested, or affectionate. Payne, however, realized that whales are actually composing songs, not just making noise under the sea, and moreover, she found that over time, whales change their tune. These majestic marine mammals interact with each other to create songs of escalating length and complexity over the years, in what one might compare to jazz riffing or Indigenous Australian songlines, the cultural, social, and physical maps passed down through generations.
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