Subject: Re: toothed whale communication

Daniel K. Odell (
Fri, 31 Jan 1997 22:27:00 -0500 (EST)

Dear Rachel:

Toothed whale not only communicate with sound but they also use vision,
touch and probably taste (chemoreception).  Your should consider all of
these areas in your report.  Since most of what we know about
communication in toothed whales is based on the bottlenose dolphin, check
out the Sea World web site for some basics.
Go to the bottlenose dolphin section under 'animal resources' and then go
to the 'communication' page.

The following is a simplistic explanation since I am not an acoustician or
a physical oceanographer.

The movement of sound in the ocean is affected by a number of factors that
affect the density of sea water.  These include temperature and salinity.
Sharp temperature or salinity interfaces can act to reflect or channel
sound.  Depending on the circumstances, high frequency sounds may be
affected more than low frequency sounds.  Typically, low frequency sounds
have more energy and travel farther than high frequency sounds.  Most
sounds produced by dolphins (clicks and whistles) are relatively high
frequency and travel relatively short distances (hundreds of meters).
Low frequency sounds can travel thousands of miles if they are in the
right acoustic channel in the ocean.  One such channel is called the SOFAR

So, how do ocean currents and temperature zones affect toothed whale
communication?  Basically, we don't know. Given the short ranges over
which most toothed whales and dolphins communicate, there is probably
little effect.

Dan Odell
Sea World

On Mon, 27 Jan 1997, Rachel Wiener wrote:

> Dear Scientist, 
>     My name is Rachel Wiener and I am doing a report on the communication 
> of whales.  From the information I have read I have narrowed my report to 
> toothed whales.  I would like to know how the ocean currents and 
> temperate zones affect their communication.  Could you please lead me to 
> some resources?  Thank you for your time.
>                                          Rachel