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

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63 comments

Hattie Wallace
Laverne Wallace5 years ago

Very good video.

Monique D.
Monique D.5 years ago

What amazing research

Melissah Chadwick
Melissah C.5 years ago

thanks

Robert O.
Robert O.5 years ago

Thanks.

Liz Thompson
Elisabeth T.5 years ago

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

Jean Lord
Jean Lord5 years ago

Beautiful. Thanks.

Monique D.
Monique D.5 years ago

How interesting, thank u

Phyllis H.

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

Lika S.
Lika S.5 years ago

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.

Laurie H.
Laurie H.5 years ago

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~