The Beacon

Whale Wednesday: Talkin' to You

Don't you hate when you're at a party or restaurant, and even without music on, the room grows louder and louder and louder? Until you can barely hear the person standing right next to you? New research shows that sperm whales have evolved to circumvent this cocktail party conundrum.

According to the scientists, whose work will be presented at the Acoustical Society of America next week, the whales are polite conversationalists -- they make a specific effort to keep their calls from overlapping by changing the intervals between their echolocating clicks.

Perhaps humans can try this. It might go something like this:

"Would you - click - like an hors d'oeuvre - click?"

"Yes, one - click - mushroom puff - click - please."

And in other acoustic findings, researchers have discovered the first known instances of male humpback whales singing to one another, similar to songbirds. Whether the whale songs are macho seduction tunes -- like male birdsongs -- is still unclear.

What is clear is that there's a lot we don't know about what's being said and sung under the sea.

 


Browse by Date