Size Matters For Echolocating Toothed Whales – A Bigger Nose, A Bigger Bang

Source: Phys.org/Aarhus University

Photo: Gabriel Barathieu/Wikimedia Commons

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A new study sheds light on how toothed whales adapted their sonar abilities to occupy different environments. The study shows that as animals grew bigger, they were able to put more energy into their echolocation sounds—but surprisingly, the sound energy increased much more than expected.

Trying to find your lunch in the dark using a narrow flashlight to illuminate one place at a time may not seem like the most efficient way of foraging. However, by replacing light with sound, this seems to be exactly how the largest toothed predators on the planet find their food. A  out this week in the journal Current Biology shows that whales, dolphins and  have all evolved to use similar narrow beams of high-intensity sound to echolocate prey. Far from being inefficient, this highly focused sense may have helped them succeed as top predators in the world’s oceans.

Thirty-two million years ago, the ancestors of toothed whales and  diverged, and the ancestors of toothed whales—including dolphins, porpoises and —evolved the ability to echolocate—to send out sound pulses and listen for the returning echoes from objects and prey in their environment.

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Photo: Gabriel Barathieu/Wikimedia Commons

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