Jul
29
2008

Deep blues: Giant whale sounds are getting lower

Song sung blue: Blue whales, the largest creatures on Earth, have a voices that are getting deeper and deeper. Only males make sounds, and it's thought that they're lowering their voices to better attract females.
Song sung blue: Blue whales, the largest creatures on Earth, have a voices that are getting deeper and deeper. Only males make sounds, and it's thought that they're lowering their voices to better attract females.Courtesy NOAA
Watch out Barry White, you’ve got some serious competition in the low-octave vocal range.

Researchers are finding that the songs of male blue whales are getting much lower, by as much as 30 percent, over the past 40 years. (Through this link you'll be able to hear some actual blue whale sounds, sped up fast enough so our ears can actually hear them.) Most blue whale vocalizations are so low that human ears can’t hear them. And the frequency drop is being witnessed in blue whale pods around the globe.

Male blue whales are the lone vocalizers of the species, and it’s thought their rumblings are designed to attract mates – again pretty much like Barry White.

So why would the pitches of their sounds decrease so much in a relatively short period of time?

One theory is that a deeper voice comes from a larger, more desirable male. As blue whale populations are on the rebound, there is more competition between males to attract females to mate with, ergo, leading the males to drop their vocalizations to even deeper tones.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

JGordon's picture
JGordon says:

Too low for humans to hear, eh? I think the real question here is, "what secrets are whales telling now that they weren't telling 40 years ago?"

posted on Tue, 07/29/2008 - 11:57am
Thor's picture
Thor says:

Based on why we think whales vocalize, I think their messages would be R-rated at the least.

posted on Tue, 07/29/2008 - 1:00pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I thought it was because of noise polution that wales have to vocalize lower.

posted on Tue, 03/31/2009 - 12:49pm

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