The Whale Vocalizations

Baleen whales, also known as mysticetes, make sounds using a specialized larynx that allows them to produce at least two different sounds simultaneously, but unfortunately, it does not protect them from the effects of human-generated noise.

Baleen whales, a group of whales consisting of 15 different species, produce sounds using a specialized larynx that enables them to emit at least two different sounds simultaneously. However, the mechanism by which these giant mammals produce sounds remained unknown for a long time. Recent studies conducted by scientists from the University of Southern Denmark and the University of Vienna shed new light on this issue.

In the past, studies of whale anatomy were mainly based on observations of specimens that were stranded on beaches or were found in commercial whaling stations. Although such studies also included representations of whale larynxes, they did not reveal how these mammals produce sounds or identify internal structures as vocal cords.

In the latest article published in the journal “Nature,” a team of scientists described studies conducted on the larynxes of three different whale species: the sei whale, the minke whale, and the humpback whale. Researchers discovered that these mammals’ larynxes contain a U-shaped structure that functions equivalent to vocal folds in land mammals. This unique structure allows for sound production and control of airflow while preventing the inhalation of water.

Furthermore, the research showed that baleen whales can produce at least two different sounds simultaneously. This means that the process of sound generation through vibrations of fatty folds can occur on both sides of the larynx, as the U-shaped fold has two branches.

However, despite significant progress in understanding how the larynx works in baleen whales, there are still areas that remain unknown. Scientists continue to try to understand how these mammals produce sounds underwater and how sound propagates into their surrounding environment.

Unfortunately, the development of human civilization also brings negative consequences for marine life. Contemporary studies show that human-generated noise, particularly from ship traffic, disrupts communication among baleen whales. This noise limits the communication range of these animals, threatening their ability to find mates, obtain food, and survive in general.

Ultimately, these discoveries may help to better understand the evolution and adaptation of whales to life in water. Additionally, they may also support efforts to protect these amazing creatures from the negative impacts of humans, such as noise generated by ships or industrial activities.


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Grzegorz Bubak

My fascination with marine aquariums began over two decades ago when I stumbled upon an article about this topic in a magazine. Since then, the underwater world has become my obsession and passion, shaping my everyday life. I started my adventure with marine aquariums with soft corals, which were my first step into this fascinating world. Over time, captivated by the diversity and beauty of SPS corals, I decided to focus on their cultivation, which continues to fill me with constant wonder.

Thanks to my experience and passion for marine aquariums, I am ready to share my knowledge and expertise with other enthusiasts in this field. I am happy to be part of the Reef Pedia community, which serves as an invaluable source of information for all marine aquarium lovers.