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J Acoust Soc Am. 2000 Jan;107(1):638-48.

Sperm whale clicks: directionality and source level revisited.

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Department of Zoophysiology, Arhus University, Denmark.


In sperm whales (Physeter catodon L. 1758) the nose is vastly hypertrophied, accounting for about one-third of the length or weight of an adult male. Norris and Harvey [in Animal Orientation and Navigation, NASA SP-262 (1972), pp. 397-417] ascribed a sound-generating function to this organ complex. A sound generator weighing upward of 10 tons and with a cross-section of 1 m is expected to generate high-intensity, directional sounds. This prediction from the Norris and Harvey theory is not supported by published data for sperm whale clicks (source levels of 180 dB re 1 microPa and little, if any, directionality). Either the theory is not borne out or the data is not representative for the capabilities of the sound-generating mechanism. To increase the amount of relevant data, a five-hydrophone array, suspended from three platforms separated by 1 km and linked by radio, was deployed at the slope of the continental shelf off Andenes, Norway, in the summers of 1997 and 1998. With this system, source levels up to 223 dB re 1 microPa peRMS were recorded. Also, source level differences of 35 dB for the same click at different directions were seen, which are interpreted as evidence for high directionality. This implicates sonar as a possible function of the clicks. Thus, previously published properties of sperm whale clicks underestimate the capabilities of the sound generator and therefore cannot falsify the Norris and Harvey theory.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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