Noisy Ocean Harming Whales

SUBHEAD: Whales, ae forced to "shout" as ocean's get noisier with human activity. Image above: "Whale Song" by Ansley Nisbet, From ( By Stephen Messenger on 14 November 2010 for - (

As anybody who's ever gone to a dance club knows, it's not easy to have quality conversation in loud places -- but party-goers aren't the only ones who have learned to cope with the clamor. According to marine biologists studying whale mating calls, an increasingly noisy ocean is forcing the animals to shout their romantic melodies -- around 10 times louder than they did 50 years ago. Talk about a raucous orca-stra!

Researchers looking at how whales are dealing with rackety seas focused their attention on the waters around Britain. With undersea oil exploration, constant shipping traffic, and even noisy wind-farms, the UK's seas are among the world's loudest -- and it's forcing whales to change their tune. A similar study found the same thing is happening to whales closer to the U.S., too.

Perter Tyack, a biologist from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, explains to The Herald-Sun:

The rumbling noises emitting by ships and marine installations have similar frequencies to those used by whales. We found that whales are trying to adapt either by emitting much louder noised or by calling at a higher frequency. It's like they've turned from bass into a tenor.

These whale songs, capable of traveling hundreds of miles through the ocean, are thought to play an important role in finding a mate. As this exchange becomes more difficult due to louder oceans, it could spell trouble for whale breeding -- it's hard to meet a decent mate as it is, nowadays.

But it's not just the volume or pitch of the whale's communication that's being affected -- the messages themselves are becoming less elaborate and repeated more often -- "like a human forced to shout," says Tyack. "It also means they spend more energy on communicating."

And if all that wasn't concerning enough already, just imagine the embarrassment whales must feel when they learn that they've been calling their new partner by the wrong name, like, all night.


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