Acoustic Communication in Whales and Dolphins

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Cozmic, 199 W 8th Ave, Eugene, OR

Get there early if you want a seat (trust me!)


Why do whales sing? Why do they make so many sounds as they move about our oceans? How can we learn more about whales, dolphins, and other marine mammals from their sounds? David Mellinger, PhD, associate professor at OSU’s Hatfield Marine Sciences Center, will introduce some whales, whale songs and whale sounds and then look at questions that have arisen from research on marine mammal sounds.

“Whales sing when they’re on the breeding grounds,” he says. “So you might think the song is for attracting mates and driving off potential competitors, as it frequently is for birds. But whales also sing in the ‘off-season,’ away from the breeding grounds. Why? Humans too enjoy song, and other music, all the time. What similarities are there that might help us understand both the whales and ourselves?

Another interesting facet of whale calls is that they can travel very long distances in the sea — in some cases, hundreds of miles. Mellinger will show some of the ways in which we hear, locate and track whales and how we use this tracking to understand whale movements and ecology. We also use it for whale conservation, by finding the areas of the sea that are critical to the whales’ survival.