Science Questions

How loud are whales?

Sun, 3rd Jun 2007

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Question

John Purslow asked:

I’ve heard that the loudest sounds in the animal kingdom are made by whales, but which species? How loud are they?

Answer

The Blue Whale is the loudest animal in the world and it makes a sound up to about 188dB.  For comparison, a jet engine at take off is about 140 dB, and the human pain threshold is about 120dB.  Humpback Whales are not as loud, but they’re more like the Mariah Carey of the whale world as they have really complex whale songs with a really wide frequency range.

The amplitude of whale song is measured underwater, so although it would be painful to humans, it doesn’t hurt other animals in the sea because they have different ears and can tolerate such high amplitudes.

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