In The Wild, Which Animals Can Sing?

Feb 18, 2022by Olivia - F&F

We know that many animals bark, bleat, buzz, hiss, chirp, and even scream to communicate with one another — but which animal species can actually sing? As humans, we have a very ‘human-centric’ idea of what constitutes singing, but in the wild, some species use song as a tool to strengthen social bonds, attract partners, and ward off enemies. 

Humpack Whale Pod Whale SongsHumpack Whale Pod Whale Songs

Humpback Whales Learn “Hit Songs” During Their Migration

Did you know that new “hit songs” become popular in the humpback whale community, similar to human pop charts? It’s hard to believe, but humpback whales actually “learn” new songs from each other on their annual migration. 

Clare Owen at the University of St Andrews, along with a team of researchers, recorded the songs of 52 male humpback singers across six wintering grounds in the South Pacific. Amazingly, they could be separated into three distinct “songs” which corresponded to different geographical areas. 

“When first analyzing the sounds, they seemed so alien but as I spent more time listening, I started to notice patterns and it really was like learning a new language.” - Clare. So cool!

White Handed Gibbons SingingWhite Handed Gibbons Singing

Gibbons Are The Animal Kingdom’s Best Opera Singers!

Gibbons are some of the noisiest opera singers in the animal kingdom. But, did you know that each gibbon species has its own distinctive song and regional ‘accents’? Some gibbon species are even capable of singing duets, often comprising a male and a female. It’s believed that these beautiful duets help to strengthen social bonding and set territorial boundaries from other mating pairs.

Researchers have discovered that the vocal mechanisms that gibbons use to ‘sing’ are extremely similar to opera singers. These complex arias are completely dependent on the situation, too. Gibbons use their singing voice to gauge where the rest of their family unit is, or to send out an alert if an intruder has entered their space. These calls vary in tempo and pitch, and are heard throughout South-East Asia’s rainforests.

Pacific Tree FrogPacific Tree Frog

The Pacific Tree Frogs’ Dating Scene Involves An All-Male Choir!

Did you know that a group of Pacific tree frogs is called a ‘chorus’? For up to five months of the year, these small green frogs join in a ‘chorus’ every night to attract a female. On balmy summer evenings — particularly after a bout of rain — it’s common for many frog species around the world to sing out in a chorus of croaks. 

For Pacific tree frogs, however, the dating scene is pretty tough! This is because the more frequently a frog chirps, the more likely it is to attract a female — so getting stage fright is not an option. Typically, the area’s dominant male ‘leads’ the chorus, with subordinate males following its lead. This miniature, croaking choir can be found right at the water’s edge in the warmer months.

Mexican Free-Tailed BatMexican Free-Tailed Bat

Mexican Free-Tailed Bats Must Impress Females Through Singing 

Now, we said that the dating scene for Pacific tree frogs was pretty tough — but it’s nothing compared to the mating rituals of Mexican free-tailed bats. During mating season, the miniature Mexican free-tailed bat attracts the attention of a female through a simple, high-pitched tune. Humans actually need special audio equipment to hear the bat’s mating call!

Once the Mexican free-tailed bat succeeds in attracting a female, the male bat upgrades his song to incorporate a complex variety of sequences — it’s believed that the bats do this to maintain the attention of the female for long enough to move onto the next stage of the mating ritual. 

What’s interesting is that the Mexican free-tailed bat is actually capable of ‘improvising’ under pressure.

We love that the animal kingdom is filled with species that communicate via song — whether it’s to ward off enemies, bond with family members, or show off to a potential mate. Birds, frogs, mammals, insects and fish are all capable of making sounds, but very few species have the ability to create complex tunes and improvise with their melodies! 

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