New Technology Now Allows Us To Hear Narwhals Underwater

In a new study, published in the journal PLOS One, scientist have captured the buzzing, clicking, and callings of the narwhal and it is beautiful to hear. Narwhals, which are commonalty referred to as “Unicorns of the Sea”, are found in the chilly waters surrounding Greenland, Canada, Russia. The marine animal is notoriously shy and allusive, routinely diving to depths of 1700 meters (5,577 feet).

The specific species captured on tape are the East Greenland narwhals. There is an estimated 6,000 or so of the species whom are very isolated from human activity.  Due to being separated by icebergs and ice sheets, they have been relativily rare to see, much less the opportunity to capture the noises they make.

But unfortunately, due to climate change, that ice is shrinking and completely changing the ecosystems that the narwhal live in. “Wide-scale changes are taking place in the Arctic, with warmer temperatures leading to shrinking summer ice coverage,” lead author Susanna Blackwell from Greeneridge Sciences said in a statement.

The team behind the research used acoustic sensors and GPS trackers to monitor the sounds and movements of six narwhals and were able to capture 533 hours of audio to analyze in further studies. The team hopes that the audio will help them determine how the animals acoustic behavior changes depending on location, time and environment.

Previous studies have attempted to record narwhal sounds with underwater microphones but were unable to due to limited technology.

The team found the animal produced three distinct categories of noise: click, buzz, and call. Clicking was used as a form of echolocation to find and catch prey, which they do with their distinctive “horn”.  The sounds were produced at depths of 350 to 650 meters (1,148 to 2,133 feet) and it was through the tracking of clicks and buzzing that the researchers were able to pinpoint the location of a particularly popular dining area. 

The calls were produced near the surface and it is suspected that it is used as a form of communication between animals.

Check out some of the beautiful recordings below.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.