Australian whales looking for mates have given up singing and taken up fighting.

EurekAlert shares a University of Queensland study that shows a turn to violence among courting whales along Australia’s eastern seaboard. Whales seeking mates are giving up courtship songs and instead starting to fight potential competitors:

Associate Professor Rebecca Dunlop from The University of Queensland’s School of Biological Sciences led research analysing almost two decades of data on humpback whale behaviour and found singing may no longer be in vogue when it comes to seduction.

“In 1997, a singing male whale was almost twice as likely to be seen trying to breed with a female when compared to a non-singing male,” Dr Dunlop said.

“But by 2015 it had flipped, with non-singing males almost five times more likely to be recorded trying to breed than singing males….”

“With humpbacks, physical aggression tends to express itself as ramming, charging, and trying to head slap each other.

“This runs the risk of physical injury, so males must weigh up the costs and benefits of each tactic.”

Dr Dunlop said male whales were less likely to sing when in the presence of other males.

“Singing was the dominant mating tactic in 1997, but within the space of seven years this has turned around,” Dr Dunlop said.

Co-author, Associate Professor Celine Frere said previous work by UQ’s Professor Michael Noad found the whale population grew from approximately 3,700 whales to 27,000 between 1997 and 2015.

You can read more of Dunlop and Frere’s research here, in Communications Biology.