December 2 – A Whale Of A Sound

Today’s factismal: The blue whale is the loudest animal known; its cries can reach 188 decibels, or about twenty times as loud as a jet engine!

Good old Balaenoptera musculus (“muscular winged whale”). Not only is it the largest animal on Earth, ever, it is also the loudest (probably also ever). This mighty master of the ocean will call out to other blue whales with a cry that crosses the ocean. It sound is so loud that any fish nearby are stunned and may even be killed by the pressure wave it generates. Interestingly, we are still uncertain exactly why the blue whale makes such loud sounds.

A blue whale call (Image courtesy NOAA)

A blue whale call
(Image courtesy NOAA)

Certainly, it is used for echolocation, but a quieter sound would do as well for that. And it may be used for long-distance communication, but a more focused sound would do as well. And it is possible that it is used for self defense; we know that sharks and other predators will feed on blue whales. But whales aren’t the only things that make noise in the ocean; there are also fish (like the aptly named grunt), waves, and even man. Some researchers think that the increasing clamor in the ocean may be driving the whales to distraction.

And noise pollution isn’t just a problem underwater; it affects the quality of life here on dry land, too. If you’d like to measure the noise pollution at your home, then download the Noise Tube app and see how much you’ve been hearing!

One thought on “December 2 – A Whale Of A Sound

  1. Pingback: June 8 – Deep Blue | Little facts about science

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