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The secret of whale song hidden deep in their larynx

Natasha Kumar By Natasha Kumar Feb23,2024

The secret of the song of whales hidden deep in their larynx

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The humpback whale is a baleen whale.

Agency France-Presse

Mysticetes, also called baleen cetaceans, sing thanks to a unique system in their larynx operating on a principle similar to that of terrestrial mammals such as humans, and described for the first time in a study published in the journal Nature (New window) (in English).

By returning to the sea around 50 million years ago, the ancestors of whales had to adapt their communication system to avoid drowning. Odontocetes, toothed cetaceans like the current dolphin, developed a nasal organ allowing them to emit sounds.

Scientists thought that for their part mysticetes, like the blue whale or the rorqual, used their larynx to produce vocalizations. But the mechanism of their anatomy allowing these songs was not really understood, recalls an article accompanying the study.

The first sailors had detected these strange sounds, initially attributed to mythical creatures or to the imagination of drunken sailors, recalls American anatomist Joy Reidenberg in the article.

It was only with access, after the Second World War, to the sounds recorded by military hydrophones that researchers understood that these songs were produced by whales.

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Natasha Kumar

By Natasha Kumar

Natasha Kumar has been a reporter on the news desk since 2018. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining The Times Hub, Natasha Kumar worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my 1-800-268-7116

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