Scientists have been trying to explain how baleen whales can hear sounds.
This whale species is known to sing very complex songs to other whales, and marine mammal experts have been trying to figure out how these whales can capture very low sound frequencies and hear it through the ear bones.
Also known as mysticetes, the baleen whale is one of the biggest animals in the world. The mysticetes group includes minke whales, blue whales, right whales, fine and grey whales.
These giant marine mammals can create very low frequency sounds that can travel for great distances under water.
According to marine mammals experts, the wavelength of the whales’ sounds can be longer that the whales’ bodies.
To understand how the baleen whales can capture sounds, the scientists examined a young fin whale that beached on the shores of California and died.
The researchers analyzed the head of the whale using an X-ray CT scanner. Then they used a technique known as finite element modeling, which breaks up the data that represent the skull and other head parts into millions of extremely small elements. The researchers use this technique to track the relationship of these elements with one another.
The scientists then simulated a sound wave that passes through the computerized whale’s skull, revealing how each bone element vibrates in return.
One of the scientists involved in the study, Ted Cranford, explained in a news release that baleen whales can hear sounds through bone conduction. He adds that this is a very important discovery.
The new findings reveal more information on how the whales are able to hear underwater. This can help legislators decide on the limits of the noises made by humans that can affect the oceanic life.
Cranford explains that the recent study offers new insight on how the largest animals in the world can perceive sounds.
“This research has driven home one beautiful principle: Anatomic structure is no accident. It is functional, and often beautifully designed in unanticipated ways”
, Cranford concludes.
The new findings on how baleen whales can hear sounds were published in the journal Plos One.
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