How Do Whales Attract Mates?

Scottish Seabird Center

Whales communicate with one another in a spoken language, including when attracting a prospective mates. In addition to the mating calls, some whales--primarily those that travel in pods--perform other rituals to snag the attention of another.

Overview of Whale Mating

Whales communicate with one another in a spoken language, including when attracting a prospective mates. In addition to the mating calls, some whales--primarily those that travel in pods--perform other rituals to snag the attention of another.

Baleen Whales

Humpback Whale

Baleen whales--including humpback, grey and blue whales--attract mates with distinct whale songs. Blue whales do not travel in pods or groups, so they have a very loud and deep song that can reach other blue whales potentially miles away. Humpbacks have the greatest octave range and the most complex and distinct melodies. Their individual melodies are their troubadours to attract a mate.

Sperm Whales

Sperm Whale

Sperm whales populate in two groups: matriarchal pods and bachelor herds. When the males are fully matured, they live alone until breeding season, and then once again create male herds to seek out female pods. The pods and herds find each other with calls and codas, a set of clicks used to communicate that are distinct with every sperm whale. When a male herd locates a pod of females, the males will then battle one another to attract a female from the pod.

Orcas or Killer Whales

Killer Whale

Orcas populate in large matriarchal pods, with both males and females living in the pod. These pods develop a distinct dialect of communication. When pods meet, the whales can distinguish their own pod by the dialects. They also use this distinction to find mates of a different pod, since orcas do not breed within their own pod.

Narwhals

Narwhal males

Narwhals travel in large pods, with populations up to 20 or 30, including males, females and calves. During mating season, the pods will migrate to coastlines. Sometimes these pods intermingle for mating, but not always. Narwhal males sprout long ivory tusks at their upper lips when they reach sexual maturity. Although scientists aren't entirely sure of the function of these tusks, many believe that they are primarily for mating rituals, in addition to using mating calls to attract females. Narwhal males have been seen crossing their tusks before a female and battling one another.

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