Lamoni, Garland, Allen, Coxon, Noad, and Rendell [(2023). J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 153, 2238–2250] analyzed variations in humpback whale song structure to assess how individual singers can produce distinctive patterns that communicate desirable individual qualities to potential mates. Their analyses revealed that singers rarely produced individually specific sound patterns and that singers varied subjectively distinctive structural features of songs differently across years. These findings provide the strongest evidence to date that singing humpback whales are not varying song structure in ways that reliably reveal individual singers' physical or cognitive characteristics. Surprisingly, the authors appear to reach the opposite conclusion. Objective strategies for quantitatively comparing song properties are crucial for evaluating competing hypotheses regarding the nature and function of humpback whale songs, but the value of such strategies is reduced when the objectivity of the analyses is suspect and when negative evidence is framed as supporting prior beliefs.

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