Does loud music annoy whales?

16 May 2011
Presented by Diana O'Carroll.

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If you've been to a whale acrobatics display at a tourist centre, you probably noticed some very loud music being played. But does it actually annoy the whales? Plus, we ask how much petrol is the optimum amount to fill the car with each time you visit the pump.

In this episode

00:00 - Does the music at Sea World bother the whales?

As sound travels better in water than air, is the music at SeaWorld very loud for the animals? Does it bother them?

Does the music at Sea World bother the whales?

We put this question to Mariana Melcon from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California in San Diego... Mariana - As far as I know it hasn't been studied whether whales are bothered by loud music in Sea World. It's true actually that the sound propagates better in the water than in the air. However, when the airborne sounds reach the water, lots of energy is lost. This means that the loud music would not be as loud in the water as it is in the air. Since whales spend much more time underwater than performing aerial displays, I wouldn't expect them to be as bothered as humans could be. I guess though that people hitting the glass walls and shouting could be somewhat disturbing.

Now their own sounds could also be affecting them because toothed whales produce high intensity sounds. They are reflected from objects and return as echoes. So, the animals analyse these echoes to, for instance, find their prey. Now imagine how loud it can be for them, emitting these sounds which can be approximately as loud as ships, reflecting in the surrounding walls. So summarising, animals may be annoyed by the loud music, but in terms of acoustics, I think that there are other factors that could be affecting them more.

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