Subject: Re: vocal cords in whales

Kim Marshall (
Wed, 9 Sep 1998 11:57:57 -0400

I would like to know if whales have vocal cords and what investigator wrote
>an important paper on this topic.
>Thank you for your help.         Sincerely, Ivona

Dear Ivona,
Whales do not have vocal cords.  I have referenced a book edited by Louis
M. Herman titled "Cetacean Behavior, Mechanisms and functions" 1980 - John
Wiley & Sons, Inc. to try to explain how whales and in this case, small
whales - or dolphins - make sounds.

In summary, two anatomical sites where dolphins are believed to make sounds
are the tubed extention of the larynx and the nasal plugs associated with
the nasal sacs.  Purves (1967) said that the sounds are moreso produced in
the larynx and the nasal sacs recycle air to the sound-producing system.
Norris et al. (1971) suggested that whistles were produced in the nasal
plugs but also said that laryngeal sound production could be transmitted to
the nasal plug region.

Try searching WhaleNet's book section at and
search authors like Ken Norris, Purves, Evans & Maderson, Kinne for
information on cetacean sound production.

Thank you and good luck! Kim

Kim Marshall-Tilas                                   (781) 259-0423
Whale Conservation Institute                          fax: 259-0288
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