. BLUE WHALE: the Loudest Animal Alive
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BLUE WHALE, The Loudest Animal on Earth
Balaenoptera musculus



The blue whale is the loudest animal on Earth! This endangered mammal is also the largest animal that ever lived on Earth; it is larger than any of the giant dinosaurs were.

The second-loudest animal on Earth is the Howler Monkey that lives in South American rain forests.

VOCALIZATIONS
Source of Sound Decibels
Faintest audible sound 0 dB
Human whisper (at 1 m) 20 dB
Human conversation (at 1 m) 60-70 dB
Power saw (at 1 m) 110 dB
Threshold of pain to the human ear 120-130 dB
Jet engine 140 dB
Peak of symphonic music 140 dB
Peak of rock music 150 dB
Blue whale 188 dB
Blue whales mostly emit very loud, highly structured, repetitive low-frequency rumbling sounds that can travel for many miles underwater. These songs may be used for communicating with other blue whales, especially in order to attract and find mates.

Click here to hear a blue whale call (recorded by the NOAA). Whale calls are recorded by hydrophones, underwater detecting and recording devices.

The call of the blue whale reaches levels up to 188 decibels. This extraordinarily loud whistle can be heard for hundreds of miles underwater. Theoretical calculations by Roger Payne and Douglas Webb (from the 1970's) predicted that the loudest whale sounds might be transmitted across an entire ocean. The blue whale is much louder than a jet, which reaches only 140 decibels! Human shouting is 70 decibels; sounds over 120 decibels are painful to human ears. The second-loudest animal on Earth is the howler monkey (Alouatta) from the jungles of Central and South America.

PRODUCING VOCALIZATIONS
The source of whale sound production is unknown, but the larynx is the likely source. Unlike humans, whales have no vocal cords in their larynx. Whales produce sounds two ways: by moving air through a tubed extension of the larynx to the nasal plugs (located near the nasal sacs near the blowhole). P.E. Purves (1967) suggested that whale sounds are mostly produced in the larynx region and the nasal sacs, as air is moved between nasal sacs. K.S. Norris et al. (1971) suggested that whale whistles are produced in the nasal plugs.

BLUE WHALE ACTIVITIES FOR CHILDREN
A K-3 level print-out about blue whales.

A first grade addition activity. Solve the 1-digit addition problems, then do letter substitutions to answer a whale question.

A first grade subtraction activity. Solve the 1-digit subtraction problems, then do letter substitutions to answer a whale question.

A Blue whale word hunt activity - For second and third graders.

BLUE WHALE LINKS
More information about the Blue Whale from Enchanted Learning.

The Whale-watching web

References
CUMMINGS, W.C. and P.O. THOMPSON. 1971. Underwater Sounds from the Blue Whale, Blaenoptera musculus. J. Acoust Soc Am 50(4): 1193-1198.

NORRIS, K.S. 1968. The evolution of acoustic mechanisms in odontocete cetaceans. in : E. Drake, ed. Evolution and Environment. Yale Univ. Press.

PURVES, P.E. 1967. Anatomical and experimental observations on the Cetacean sonar system. in : R.G. Busnel, ed. Animal Sonar Systems : Biology and Bionics. Laboratoire de Physiologie Acoustique, Jouy-en-Josas 78, France. pp. 197-270.

SMALL, G.L. 1971. The Blue Whale. Columbia University Press, New York, 248p.




Information Sheets About Whales
(and other cetaceans)

Just click on a cetacean's name to go to that information sheet.

BELUGA WHALE

BLUE WHALE

BOTTLENOSE DOLPHIN

BOWHEAD WHALE

GRAY WHALE

HUMPBACK WHALE

KILLER WHALE

MINKE WHALE

NARWHAL

ORCA

RIGHT WHALES

SPERM WHALE




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