HOME >> BIOLOGY >> NEWS
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
claire.bowles@rbi.co.uk
44-171-331-2751
New Scientist
24-Feb-1999


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:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:


(Date:6/22/2016)... , June 22, 2016   Acuant ... and verification solutions, has partnered with RightCrowd ... solutions for Visitor Management, Self-Service Kiosks and ... products that add functional enhancements to existing ... corporations and venues with an automated ID ...
(Date:6/20/2016)... DALLAS , June 20, 2016 ... criminal justice technology solutions for public safety, investigation, ... by the prisons involved, it has secured the ... Corrections (DOC) facilities for Managed Access Systems (MAS) ... (4) additional facilities to be installed by October, ...
(Date:6/9/2016)... in attendance control systems is proud to announce the introduction of fingerprint attendance control ... right employees are actually signing in, and to even control the opening of doors. ... ... ... Photo - ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:12/6/2016)... ... December 06, 2016 , ... Symbios ... today that the company has engaged in a collaborative research partnership with Colorado ... the CSU Office of the Vice President for Research. This agreement is designed ...
(Date:12/6/2016)... PHOENIX and SAN DIEGO ... (OTCQB:CELZ) announced the appointment of Santosh Kesari , ... Board. Dr. Kesari will leverage his experience in neurology and ... its adult stem cell for treatment of stroke. The AmnioStem ... amniotic fluid, which has previously shown therapeutic activity in ...
(Date:12/6/2016)... , Dec. 6, 2016  The Texas ... Society of Australia (HISA) today announced the establishment ... exchange program between Australia and ... the world. HISA and the Texas ... a program to create a global health innovation ecosystem ...
(Date:12/5/2016)... -- Axovant Sciences Ltd. (NYSE: AXON ), ... of dementia, today announced that data on the investigational ... will be presented at the 2016 Clinical Trials in ... in San Diego . Intepirdine presentations ... complex measures of activities of daily living (ADLs) and ...
Breaking Biology Technology:
Cached News: