Could Humpback Whales Be Singing Grammatically?

THE songs of the humpback whale are more complex than anyone realised. So claim scientists in Massachusetts who are analysing the "grammar" of whale calls with information theory. They hope this approach will tell them more about the purpose of the animals' clicks and squeals.

Information theory was born in the late 1940s, thanks to an influential series of papers by Claude Shannon of Bell Laboratories in New Jersey. Shannon described a way to measure the amount of information in a stream of symbols via the stream's "entropy" or unpredictability. The symbols could be anything from binary code to letters in words. Crucially, the less predictable the stream of symbols, the more information it is likely to contain-just as the repetitive sequence "eat eat eat" conveys less information than the non-repetitive sequence "eat this pie".

The same tools can be applied to whale calls. "The humpback whale song slowly changes over the season," explains John Buck of the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth. "They have different themes that are repeated in a regular order-some die off, some are modified, and some are added."

These themes are made up of predictable sequences of sounds, or phrases. Buck and his colleagues took recordings of humpback whales and measured variations in the songs, such as changes in frequency. They then turned these measurements into a sequence of symbols representing the different themes and measured the entropy of the sequences.

At a joint meeting of European and American acoustical societies in Berlin next month, Buck's student Ryuji Suzuki will announce the preliminary findings. Buck says the entropy of the whales' calls hints that they may have a hierarchical grammar, in which one sound is varied to agree with a sound quite far back in a sequence. This is the same as human languages, where a word at the end of a sentence can be grammatically linked to the first word.

"I'm intrigued,

Contact: Claire Bowles
New Scientist

Page: 1 2

Related biology news :

1. Endometriosis: Could angiostatic therapy be the new treatment of the future?
2. Could mice hold the secret to longer life?
3. Could vitamins raise levels of bad cholesterol? Animal study suggests they might
4. Could memory performance and spatial learning be genetically based?
5. Could a specific protein contribute to erectile dysfunction for the diabetic and obese?
6. Could diabetes treatments fight cancer?
7. Could rice be the source for a natural herbicide?
8. Could hibernators hold the key to improving organ preservation?
9. Could Bt transgenic crops have nutritionally favourable effects on insects?
10. Could one less cookie a day help the fight against fat?
11. Could an anti-marijuana compound hold the key to body weight and appetite control?

Post Your Comments:

(Date:11/18/2015)... 18, 2015 --> ... new market report titled  Gesture Recognition Market - Global ... - 2021. According to the report, the global gesture recognition market was ... to reach US$29.1 bn by 2021, at a CAGR ... North America dominated the global gesture recognition ...
(Date:11/17/2015)... , Nov. 17, 2015  Vigilant Solutions announces today ... its Board of Directors. --> ... recently retiring from the partnership at TPG Capital, one ... with over $140 Billion in revenue.  He founded and ... all the TPG companies, from 1997 to 2013.  In ...
(Date:11/12/2015)... golden retriever that stayed healthy despite having the gene ... new lead for treating this muscle-wasting disorder, report scientists ... and Harvard and the University of São Paolo in ... pinpoints a protective gene that boosts muscle regeneration, ... Children,s lab of Lou Kunkel , PhD, is ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... November 24, 2015 , ... International ... and one of the premier annual events for pharmaceutical manufacturing: 2015 Annual Meeting. ... 2015, where ISPE hosted the largest number of attendees in more than a ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... 24, 2015 , ... The Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA), led by its ... as Multirotor Grand Prix, to represent the First–Person View (FPV) racing community. , FPV ... embraced this type of racing and several new model aviation pilots have joined the ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... FRANCISCO , Nov. 24, 2015  Twist ... announced that Emily Leproust, Ph.D., Twist Bioscience chief ... Jaffray Healthcare Conference on December 1, 2015 at ... Hotel in New York City. --> ... www.twistbioscience.com . Twist Bioscience is on Twitter. ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... , Nov. 24, 2015 Capricor Therapeutics, ... focused on the discovery, development and commercialization of first-in-class ... Chief Executive Officer, is scheduled to present at the ... at 10:50 a.m. EST, at The Lotte New York ... . http://capricor.com/news/events/ . --> ...
Breaking Biology Technology:
Cached News: