Sound production by whales

Date: Tue Sep 24 2002 - 09:47:27 EDT

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    Hello Dagmar, my name's J-Michel, Im 15 and and I'm
    checking on the web since around one week (!!! soooooo
    long :P) to find something on the physiological system
    of communication of the whales... It's a school work
    and I must give it thursday, september 26. So, i would
    like it if you could answer me before this date... if
    it's not possible, i would like to know more about
    this anyway ;P I know why they sing, but what I want
    truly to know, it's how...

    i will show what I've found until now but truly, it's
    not so much ;P
    "Whales don't produce sounds the way we do. Our
    vocal-chord system wouldn't work too well underwater.
    Instead, whales produce sound by moving inhaled air
    around the nasal cavity in front of their blowholes.
    In toothed whales, the sound-making system involves a
    complex arrangement of fatty tissues. In sperm whales
    and dolphins, these sound structures are so large that
    they form a pronounced bulbous shape on the forehead.
    Scientists still don't understand exactly how whale
    sound production works, but they know it is unlike
    anything else we've encountered in the animal kingdom.

    So... do you know anything more about all this ???

    Please, answer me before the 26, Jean-Michel ;P

    P.S. I'm french (québec) so sorry about my english ; D

    Bon jour J-Michel!

    I'm not sure when it happened that students thought that the Internet replaced actually physically going to a library to search for information. If you had checked on a library a few weeks ago when you received your assignment, and with the assistance of a librarian, you would've found that there is actually a great deal of information on the anatomy (it's not physiology that you're talking about above) of sound production by toothed whales, specifically dolphins. I myself ran a quick search online for information on sound production and found quite a deal of good information. Have you looked at the following sites with excellent information:

    The above are primarily on sound production by sperm whales. The first website listed has some cool graphics on the anatomy of the sperm whale head.

    As for baleen whale sound production, I know for a fact that I answered this question a year or so ago on WhaleNet, so I would recommend that you check thru the WhaleNet archives for ASK and see what you can dig up there. I actually had gone directly to a scientist with expertise in that particular field.

    You are correct that whales and dolphins do not have vocal cords. The above-mentioned sites should give you enough information for your school assignment. But please, in the future, use your library (!!!!) and check out the cool information that is available out there. Keep in mind that the Internet is not always a reliable source of information, so just because something is posted there, it's not always accurate. That's one of the purposes of WhaleNet, to get accurate information about marine mammals to people with questions.

    Best of luck,
    Dagmar Fertl

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