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The Beluga Whale Produces Two Pulses to Form its Sonar Signal

March 04, 2009

Evidence that a beluga whale uses two signal generators simultaneously when echolocating.

Odontocete cetaceans, or toothed whales, use biosonar clicks to acoustically probe their aquatic environment with an aptitude unmatched by human-made sonar. A cornerstone of this ability is their use of short, broadband pulses produced in the region of the upper nasal passages. Here we provide empirical evidence that a beluga whale (Delphinapterus leucas) uses two signal generators simultaneously when echolocating. We show that the pulses of the two generators are combined as they are transmitted through the melon to produce a single echolocation click emitted from the front of the animal. Generating two pulses probably offers the beluga the ability to control the energy and frequency distribution of the emitted click. It may also allow it to acoustically steer its echolocation beam.


Marc O. Lammers and Manuel Castellote. Published in Biology Letters Vol. 5, Issue 3. 

Last updated by Alaska Regional Office on 10/13/2022

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