Whale songs discovered in seismic recordings

whale recordings image© Dan Lizarralde/WHOI

Geologists have unwittingly created a treasure trove for marine biologists. For decades, geologists have made recordings during seismic studies, and in the process have captured decades worth of whale songs.

Discovery news reports, "The recordings come from seismic studies that shoot powerful air guns underwater to jiggle the Earth and learn more about its makeup. Sensors listen to acoustic waves in the water before, during and after the shots, capturing the reflections from the ground. But they can also pick up songs from any passing marine life that chats on the same frequency — fin whales and blue whales, in this case."

For marine biologists studying what whale songs reveal about these animals, such as communication over distance and movements, these recordings are a real jackpot. And, perhaps most importantly, they can also reveal what impact these air guns have on whales, as we know that cetaceans are highly sensitive to noise pollution.

"The noise could potentially confuse or even harm marine life, according to researchers at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in Woods Hole, Mass. The calls may reveal how whale behavior changes in response to the sudden, sharp bursts in many different settings," states Discovery News.

Researchers plan on analyzing the calls through software, and looking at behavior before, during and after air gun blasts. The results could show if whales change their behavior due to the disturbance. Knowing this can further our understanding of how noise pollution affects these marine mammals, and could go as far as changing regulations about how air guns and other noise-generating technology is used to prevent whale deaths in the future.

Whale songs discovered in seismic recordings
When recording seismic activity on the ocean floor, researchers unwittingly recorded whale songs, creating decades worth of data on songs for science.

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