Scientists are comparing the songs sung by bowhead whales to the music of Thelonious Monk. But from cicada techno to bonobo gabber, they have competition for who’s top of the pops
Move over Thelonious, there’s a new jazzer in town. New research from the University of Washington shows that unlike humpback whales, which sing similar songs each season in unison (zzz), bowhead whales have a freeform, improvised repertoire that scientists have compared to jazz. Audio recordings of a population in the Arctic between 2010 and 2014 showed that they sang 184 different tunes, a remarkable diversity of song seen only in a handful of bird species. But let’s leave the bowheads noodling around the High Arctic and explore which other genres of biomusic – music, kind of, made by animals – might be worth your while.