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The Science of Whale Songs

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the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Ocean City, NJ, in a groundbreaking study published yesterday, researchers revealed that the voice boxes of baleen whales have developed a unique set of structures for communicating underwater. This discovery solves a mystery that has perplexed scientists for the past 50 years ever since the first recordings of baleen whale songs were made in 1967.

All whales trace their origins back to land mammals with voice boxes, or larynxes, around 50 million years ago. However, unlike their toothed whale counterparts such as orcas and sperm whales, baleen whales—identified by their filter-feeding bristly plates of keratin—did not evolve nasal structures for sound production. Through experiments involving the examination of three surgically removed larynxes from stranded baleen whales, researchers observed a unique mechanism involving vocal folds vibrating against fatty tissue to generate sound in a previously unseen manner.

Additionally, utilizing digital models, the researchers concluded that baleen whales are capable of producing sounds only at low frequencies and at relatively shallow depths. This suggests that the noise generated by shipping activities may disrupt their communication patterns.


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One thought on “The Science of Whale Songs

  1. Based on the lead photo, the fat whale has sung.

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