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Whale Clicks

November 16, 2009

Researchers are learning how sperm whales avoid interrupting each others’ echolocation signals while they hunt for prey.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):
Well-behaved whales. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

(sperm whale clicks)

Like bats, sperm whales use echolocation to hunt for prey. To do this, they emit a series of clicks, and listen for echoes.
Groups of four to five whales hunt together. University of Lousiana at Lafayette physicist Natalia Sidorovskaia and her colleagues are figuring out how they echolocate without jamming each other’s signals.

NATALIA SIDOROVSKAIA (University of Lousisiana at Lafayette)
We all know how difficult it is to extract information if four or five people are just talking at the same time.

HIRSHON:
They now have evidence that each whale clicks with its own rhythmic pattern.

SIDOROVSKAIA:
They would use the fine variations in the interclick interval for distinguishing their echo from the echoes coming from the other animals.

HIRSHON:
(sperm whale clicks)
That way, each whale can zero in on its own sounds. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.