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Blue Whales Have Perfect Pitch

San Francisco State Professor Roger Bland recorded 4,378 blue whale songs near Half Moon Bay, California using underwater microphones. He then analyzed their B calls or the second half of their long songs. His analysis showed all the B calls made by the whales were the same frequency of 16.02 Hertz, four octaves below middle C.

Bland said, “If whales are so super accurate in always calling at the exact same pitch, then it’s possible that they could be able to detect tiny shifts in other whales’ calls caused by the Doppler shift.” (Source: San Francisco State News)

The difference in pitches for the thousands of whale calls was only one half of one percent, which means the whales have “perfect pitch”. Normally this is a term applied to humans who can distinguish between tones and semi-tones to the degree they can hear and identify them all.

For blue whales it is thought their perfect pitch is something that could help them find mates. It is mainly males who produce the songs. Females could use their very sensitive sound detection to determine if the call is from a male whale moving toward or away from because sound pitch varies according to the speed of emitter. Known as the Doppler Shift, it is the effect of a pitch being higher when a sound is traveling toward a listener and lower when moving away.

Blue whale calls are two parts – an A call that is a series of pulses, and a B call which is a long sustained tone, sometimes called a moan. Professor Bland noted their pitch sensitivity allows them to stay connected through sound, “…like a choir singing together where they all mutually tune in to the same frequency.” (Source: MercuryNews.com) Here is a sound clip from his research.

Blue whales are the largest mammals in the world.

Image Credit: Public Domain

Related Links:
Whales Reduce Global Warming
Pacific Basking Sharks Decline

Read more: Nature & Wildlife, Pets,

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63 comments

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5:50AM PDT on May 25, 2011

Very good video.

6:29PM PST on Mar 9, 2011

What amazing research

10:18PM PST on Feb 11, 2011

thanks

10:13AM PDT on Oct 31, 2010

Thanks.

6:59AM PDT on Sep 17, 2010

WOW, what a great video, thank you...

4:44PM PDT on Sep 15, 2010

Beautiful. Thanks.

7:28AM PDT on Sep 15, 2010

How interesting, thank u

9:43AM PDT on Sep 14, 2010

This was great. To bad video was'nt longer.

11:55PM PDT on Sep 13, 2010

This was WAY cool. Thanks for posting. Whales are majestic, aren't they? I think the guy is kind of crazy for riding such a small boat way out there though.

6:31PM PDT on Sep 13, 2010

Thank you Jake for this one. Whales are so magnificent and graceful. I wish NO MORE HARM TO COME THEM so they can continue to live their lives in peace-that's my wish. Many thanks again~

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