Birdsong and humpback whale's song

To: "Stephen Martin" <>, "birding aus" <>
Subject: Birdsong and humpback whale's song
From: "Philip A Veerman" <>
Date: Wed, 25 Nov 1998 12:51:12 +1100
I'm amazed that Stephen Martin claims to have "spoken to Cetaceans". I have
been excited (not to mention sea-sick) just to watch them. I think you need
to be clear exactly what you mean by referring to "humpback whales are the
only known species". Only known species of what: whale, marine mammal,
mammal, vertebrate? As to the claim is that Humpback Whale songs are known
to change over time, I think this refers to their known ability to develop
songs as new ideas are brought into the repertoire. I would think this would
be widely available in extensive literature about cetaceans (some of which
is on CD), as well as books and papers about bird song and lyrebirds. This
evolution of song and regional dialects may be unique among non-primate
mammals but I'm sure that it also occurs in the mimic and species specific
song patterns among lyrebirds. I notice someone also responded to you about
lung capacity and birds. I'm not sure this is a valid issue as the breathing
system of birds and mammals is entirely different. Briefly, birds have a one
way flow of air through air sacs and lungs, whereas mammals breathe in and
out of the lung as a dead end sack.
-----Original Message-----
From: Stephen Martin <>
To:  <>
Date: Wednesday, 25 November 1998 9:10
Subject: RFI Birdsong

>I'm currently researching for a book on humpback whales, to be
>published next year (I hope).
>While researching, I've spoken to Cetaceans and read articles, who
>(and which) claim that humpback whales are the only known species to
>a) geographically distinct 'songs'(regional differences)
>b) change these 'songs'
>and which
>c) sing for more than a few seconds.
>I know that this is incorrect I've heard many bird species sing for
>much longer than 'a few seconds' and I understand that butcherbirds
>have regional variations - not to mention lyrebirds.
>Could someone please steer me towards an authoritative source for
>confrmation or refutation please ?
>                        Stephen Martin
>                 State Library of New South Wales
>                      Sydney, Australia

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