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Features May 2007: Volume 4, Number 2
   

Whale of a Song

 
     

The captivating songs of whales have intrigued marine biologists for years. Now scientists at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego have made progress in deciphering the sounds produced by blue whales, the largest mammals on Earth.


Erin Oleson, '99, Ph.D. '05, and her colleagues used a variety of approaches, including tissue analysis and attaching data-logging tags to the animals. They found that only males produced sounds known as "AB" calls, which may play a role in reproduction, while "D" calls were heard from both sexes, typically during foraging. Oleson hopes such call and behavior information will eventually be used for calculating species abundances, and give an overall better understanding of whales and their habitats.

In a second study, John Hildebrand, '78, and his colleagues used acoustic recordings of whales from around the world to produce a new map that categorizes blue whale species types into nine regions based on their "dialects."

"By listening, you can tell something about the areas in which they are interacting to breed," says Hildebrand. "That's important to know for managing and conserving the animals."

Contributors to Making Waves: Mario Aguilera, '89, Rex Graham, Raymond Hardie, Robert Monroe, Neda Oreizy, '08, Doug Ramsey

RELATED LINKS

Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UCSD
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Scripps News Release
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