Researchers discover how whale song works!

A team of researchers and scientists has discovered how whale song works, obtaining a sensational result

by Lorenzo Ciotti
Researchers discover how whale song works!
© Mario Tama / Staff Getty Images Sport

A team of researchers and scientists has discovered how whale song works, obtaining a sensational result. The discovery was published in the journal Nature by Coen Elemans' group, from the Biology department of the University of Southern Denmark.

According to the study's experts, singing comes from a very particular larynx. The characteristics of this organ mean that singing is disturbed by the noise of ships

Until now it was assumed that fin whales and humpback whales used their larynx to produce sounds, but it was not at all clear how they managed to generate sound. Scientists analyzed the larynges of three fin whales and humpback whales, within which structures were discovered that allow singing to be generated by means of aerodynamic vibrations, allowing at the same time the recycling of air and avoiding inhaling water.

The researchers deduced that the larynges would not be able to produce sounds at frequencies that could communicate over large distances, hundreds of kilometers. That whale songs fall within frequencies between 30 and 300 Hertz.

Whale© Cameron Spencer / Staff Getty Images

The song of the whales

The biological process used to produce sounds varies from one Cetacean family to another. All Cetaci are much more dependent on sound for communication and senses than their terrestrial cousins because the absorption of light by water makes vision difficult and because the relatively slow movement of water relative to air diminishes the effectiveness of the sense of smell.

Increased environmental noise in the ocean world caused by shipping is the basis of environmentalists' complaints that humans are destroying this important feature of the marine habitat.

While the complex, deep sounds of the humpback whale are believed to be primarily used for courtship, the simpler sounds of other whales are used throughout the year. While toothed whales are able to use echolocation to detect the size and nature of objects with great precision, this ability has never been demonstrated for baleen whales. Additionally, unlike some fish such as sharks, a whale's sense of smell is not highly developed.

Therefore, given the poor visibility of aquatic environments and the fact that sound travels so well in water, sounds in the human-audible range find a role in whale navigation. For example, the depth of the water or the presence of a large obstacle in front can be detected by the vigorous sounds emitted by baleen whales.