Subject: Whale Sounds

Patrick Miller (
Wed, 22 Jan 1997 17:43:29 -0500

>       My question is right in your area, it seems.  I have been wondering for\
>time about what progress was being made in the whale sound/communication area.\

> I would be most interested in any general information on the topic, and more
>1)  Is there any evidence that whales communicate with each other using sound
>2)  Do they use audible or non-audible (to us) frequencies eg infrasound  like\

>elephants and alligators do ?
>Thank you very much in advance


Dear Jonathon - 

When we think of communication between people, we usually think of it
in terms of language. Of course, humans communicate in other ways (e.g.
body language), and communication in animals is usually defined as a
signal which elicits a change in behavior in another animal. There is
considerable direct and indirect evidence to indicate the whales and
dolphins communicate with each other using sound. The mechanism and
function of cetacean sounds, particularly dolphins, has been the
subject of numerous studies over the last 30 years. For example, several
people have conducted "playback experiments", where recorded sounds
of a whale or dolphin are played to animals of the same species, and
observed strong responses to certain sounds or calls. Playbacks of
recordings of animals in stressful conditions have elicited "alarm"
responses in listening animals, for example. Many dolphin species have
a wide array of whistles, squeaks, pops, clicks, and other sounds which
are thought to be intended to pass information to others. Despite
extensive research, however, the precise function of most whale and
dolphin sounds is not known.
        Sounds produced by whales and dolphins range into frequencies
much lower and much higher than those within human hearing range (100
Hz to 20 kHz). Blue whales have been recorded producing sounds as low
as 20 Hz, and other baleen whales such as fins and minkes are known
to make sounds lower than 100 Hz. Dolphins and porpoises, however,
commonly make very high sounds which can span up to 125 kHz or higher.

				yours in whale research,