Dolphins and toothed whales turn to ‘broken voice’ to hunt in the deep | ecology | Magazine

Dolphins and other toothed whales have developed a nasal driven sound source over the air that works in different vocal registers, such as the human voice. They use it to hunt deep.

The finding, published in the journal Scienceis the result of research led by Coen Elemans, a voice scientist at the Department of Biology at the University of Southern Denmark, and Peter Madsen, a whale biologist at the Department of Biology at Aarhus University (Denmark).

This study shows that toothed whales, like humans, have at least three registers of voice:

  • juvenile vocal registeralso known as glottalization or broken voice, which produces the lowest tones.
  • chest recordwhich is our normal speaking voice.
  • falsetto registerwhich produces even higher frequencies.

The vocal falsetto is a normal voice register often used in American English, details Europe Press. Kim Kardashian, Katy Perry and Scarlett Johansson are well known for using this record, says Elemans.

According to the new research, toothed whales use this broken voice recordcalled in English ‘vocal fry’ to produce their echolocation calls to capture prey.

When they use this modality, the vocal cords are open for a very short time, so very little respiratory air is needed to use this register, adds Elemans.

And this economy of air makes it particularly suitable for echolocation. During deep dives, all the air is compressed to a tiny fraction of the volume at the surface.

Toothed whales dive up to 2,000 meters deep and catch more fish than the human fishing industry. When hunting in deep, turbid water, they produce short, powerful ultrasonic echolocation clicks at speeds of up to 700 clicks per second to locate, track, and capture their prey.

Thus, the broken voice record allows whales access the richest food niches on Earth: the ocean depths, says Madsen in a statement.

Although this vocal modality may be controversial in humans and being perceived as anything from annoying to overbearing has certainly made toothed whales an evolutionary success, adds Elemans. (YO)

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