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Humpback whales use songs to speak with one another throughout the ocean


Biologists have discovered how baleen whales produce their signature songs – and it entails their uniquely formed larynx.

Baleen whales, together with humpbacks, talk with complicated songs that may be heard over huge distances. “Individuals recorded the primary whale sounds within the Nineteen Seventies, but it surely was solely very just lately that we began to understand the completely different sounds these animals truly made,” says Coen Elemans on the College of Southern Denmark. “Now, the query is, how do they even do that?”

To study extra, Elemans and his group extracted the larynxes of three just lately deceased baleen whales: a sei whale (Balaenoptera borealis), a humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) and a northern minke whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata).

The larynx, generally referred to as the voice field, is an organ that sits on the high of the neck in mammals. When air flows by way of the organ, folds of tissue vibrate, leading to sound.

However that isn’t the case with baleen whales, says Elemans. Upon examination of the whales’ larynxes, the group discovered that they’d an sudden form – with a cushion of fats sitting on one aspect of the organ.

As these whales breathe, the air is pushed towards the fatty materials, which causes it to vibrate and make sounds. “We’ve by no means seen this in some other animal,” says Elemans. “It’s completely distinctive to baleen whales.”

The whales can also recycle the air of their lungs, which is useful when they’re submerged for lengthy durations of time. After they breathe out by way of their windpipe and larynx, the air goes right into a sac with a contracting wall that expels the air again into their lungs.

From a pc mannequin of the larynx, the group discovered that baleen whales may produce frequencies as much as 300 Hertz, at a most depth of 100 metres under the floor of the ocean. That’s throughout the frequency vary of noise made by ships, elevating issues that transport noise may drown out their songs.

“These whales can not escape this,” says Elemans. “So we’d like take steps to cut back the noise we make.”


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