Adaptive Value

Sexual Selection Based on Singing Proficiency

Variable ability to compose and learn new notes/songs has been observed in populations of humpback whales [2]. "Better" singers demonstrate learning ability and can sing a novel song earlier in the breeding season by learning and appyling changes faster. Noad et al. 2000 [5] suggested that novelty drives changes in songs within a population, which would imply that novel songs are more attractive than old songs. Individuals with an increased ability to quickly learn songs are able to learn novel songs earlier in the breeding season and send out information about their song learning ability. This information can be used by other individuals to evaluate the singers and decide whether or not to interact with them. Therefore, sexual selection in would favor these quick-learning singers. 

Findings by Green et al [6] showed that 68 % of humpback male singers were found accompanying females with calves. This percentage could imply that the humpback whale mother can use a male's song to pick out the male's willingness to "escort" her and her young and use this inference to choose a desirable mate. Because paternity tests for the escorted calves were not possible, Green et al. hypothesized that the males were escorting the mothers either in order to protect their own young, or to establish a relationship with the mother so as to gain the opportunity to mate with her the next time she is receptive (every 2.6 yrs). If the males were in fact guarding their own offspring, it would support the hypothesis that the female is able to select for attentive fathers based on each male's song.