Curiosity

The mystery of the sounds made by whales is revealed

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Researchers have discovered how some of the largest whales in the ocean produce their complex sounds.

Whales have evolved their u-shaped structure, which is layered with blubber and sits above the larynx.

It is otherwise known as the "voice box" and enables them to make sounds underwater.

The new discovery, published in the journal Nature, has also revealed why the sounds they make in the ocean are annoying to the whales themselves.

Scientists have studied the "voice box" of three dead whales, of three different species.

Whale sounds are limited to a narrow frequency that is blocked by the noise produced by ships.

"Sounds are absolutely key to their survival because it's the only way they can find each other to mate in the ocean," explained Coen Elemans, who led the whale study.

Humpback whales are a group consisting of 14 species. How they produce the complex sounds has been a mystery until now. The researchers are very excited to have made this discovery.

The study is not conclusive, but experts say the discovery will guide future research into how whales communicate and identifies a new way of making sounds that has not been seen in any other animal.

Elemans, points out that animals have adapted their voice boxes over tens of millions of years to create sounds underwater.

Unlike humans and other mammals, whales do not have teeth or vocal cords.

This vocal anatomy allows whales to make singing sounds by expelling air and preventing water from entering.

The study shows that noise from ships in the ocean prevents whales from communicating over long distances.