Humpback whales less sociable in presence of boats

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Humpback whales less sociable in presence of boats

December 03, 2019 - 20:51
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Humpback whales have been found to be less chatty when there are boats in the vicinity.

It appears that the presence of boats has an impact on the social behaviour of humpback whales.

After studying humpback whales off Queensland's Peregian Beach, researchers discovered that the whales’ ability to communicate and socialise is adversely affected by the noise and presence of boats.

In some cases, the mammals’ communication range is reduced by a factor of four.

"It appears that groups of humpback whales tend to socialise much less in the presence of vessels—in this study, mostly small fishing boats—compared to when there aren't any present," said Rebecca Dunlop from The University of Queensland's Cetacean Ecology and Acoustics Laboratory.

She suggested that one of the reasons could be that the noise from the vessels hinder the whale’s ability to hear one another, saying that “if they can't hear each other, they're less likely to join together."

It is also likely that the physical presence of the vessels causes a change in the whales’ behaviour.

However, Dr Dunlop assured that any changes in breeding interactions due to the vessels’ presence is likely to have a negligible effect on the population.

She added that only if other factors came into play (for example, changes in krill population or increased human activity) would the vessels’ presence have a more negative impact.

The findings of the study was published in the Royal Society Open Science journal.

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