What Sound Do Narwhals Make? Can Humans Hear Narwhals?

Narwhals can make different sounds with different frequencies. They use a series of click sounds, Whistles, and pulsed sounds with different frequencies and a variety of series per second or minute. Using the top of their heads, they produce different sounds for communication, locating prey, and alerting them to danger. 

Indeed, Narwhals have a unique way of communicating. They make a variety of sounds for different purposes of communication. Isn’t that fascinating? 

These whales rely solely on their mind power to emit waves; luckily, those waves were recorded by marine biologists. The narwhals’ method of communication is now something we understand a little better.

Purpose of Narwhals’ Sounds

Narwhal

According to marine biologists, every sound has a different purpose. Narwhals vocalization includes echolocation clicks, whistles, and tonal pulsed sounds.

Narwhals use echolocation to locate and guide their prey.

Whistles are long, tonal sounds that they use to navigate through the water and communicate with each other. It is more of a casual sound as compared to other sounds. It also serves the purpose of alerting nearby creatures.

Pulsed sounds are long tonal signals with a pattern. Scientists have also. Narwhals use pulsed sounds to locate their prey as well as potential danger. 

What Sound Do Narwhals Make? Types of Sounds 

One of the most fascinating features of a narwhal is known to be its mysterious vocalization. Echolocation is how narwhals locate their prey and move through the water. They recorded different ranges of sounds, demonstrated as clicks, whistles, and pulsed sounds. 

Fact: The most intense signals yet recorded from free-ranging whales are from Narwhals.

Types of Sounds Produced by Narwhals

Click Sound

Clicks are small, sharp sounds for communication, navigation, and echolocation. It means that they use clicking sounds to indicate their whereabouts.

According to research, a few variants were recorded. With a frequency of up to 160 kHz, the lowest and highest rates are 10 and 500 clicks per second, respectively.

Whistle Sound

The Whisle sounds are long, tonal sounds meant for communication between individuals.

The whistles have a lower frequency of 300 Hz to 48 kHz. As reported, the whistles would last about 1 second. 

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Pulsed Sound

Pulsed sounds are a series of clicking sounds with different patterns, each serving a different function. The purpose of this is social interaction and locating prey. They also use this as a way of alerting them to danger.

Tonal pulsed signals are pulsing signals with intervals. Three pulsed sounds were recorded in 10 seconds that were 0.5 seconds apart. They also have a frequency of about 500 Hz to 48 kHz. 

Buzz Sound

The buzzing sound is a continuous humming. In recent years, Greenlandic researchers have captured it on tape. According to them, this is the sound triumphant narwhals make. 

How Loud are Narwhals? 

Narwhal

The sound Narwhals produce is between 200 and 240 decibels, which is deafening. The potential damaging sound for a human is 80+ decibels. Narwhals’ sound can travel around 3000 km at a low frequency.

The echolocation clicks have a frequency of up to 160 kHz, while the pulsed sounds range from 500 Hz to 48 kHz. The whistles have the lowest frequency, ranging from 300 Hz to 48 kHz. 

What is the Narwhal’s Reaction to Noises? How do Noise Affect Them?

Narwhals are one of the marine creatures that are sensitive to noise. As Narwhals use sound to communicate and navigate through the waters, the unfamiliar human ocean activities cause them stress. 

This triggered stress affects their behavior. Studies indicate that narwhals behave similarly around ships as they do when they are around their killer whale predators.

Another thing recorded was the effect on their feeding behavior. There was a decrease in the clicks, the sound they emitted when looking for food, when the ships were nearby. As the distance between them decreased, the sounds eventually disappeared. 

Can Humans Hear Narwhals?

According to the research carried out by researchers from the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources, humans can hear Narwhals. 

They tied a nylon thread around the ride on the narwhal’s back and attached a hearing aid with a suction cup. 

This helped them record sounds that the Narwhals made throughout the day for different activities. They could very clearly hear the buzz and clicks of Narwhals, which they emit more frequently than other sounds. 

The Narwhals produce different sounds with different frequencies, which is why humans can hear some sounds while others can’t. The Narwhals make sounds that have a frequency range of about 500 Hz to 48 kHz. An average human can hear from 20 Hz to 20 kHz.

People living near the Narwhals’ habitat can likely hear them when they are out of water.

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How are Narwhals’ Sounds Produced?

Narwhals are marine mammals, so they do not have vocal folds to help them communicate and navigate. A set of phonic lips located inside the nasal passage of narwhals is essential for producing sound. 

They control the airflow and the tension on these phonic lips to produce different types of sounds like clicks, whistles, pulses, and buzzes.

How Do Narwhals Communicate with other Narwhals Under the Sea?

Narwhals have been shown to use different methods to communicate with each other, both physical and vocal. 

Vocal

Narwhals produce a variety of vocalizations, like clicks, whistles, and pulsed sounds. They claimed to have mostly used whistles among themselves. Vocalization can serve as a means of maintaining contact, coordinating group movements, and conveying important messages. 

Physical

Narwhals also use different body postures to exhibit specific positions and meanings. That includes signals, the intention of interaction and submission. They often use physical touch to convey excitement or aggression. 

Did you know how Narwhals communicate with Other Sea Creatures? Narwhals use the same methods to communicate with other sea creatures as they do with each other. 

The reason is that most marine mammals have the same vocalization method. They use different sequences and patterns of clicks to communicate. In the presence of potential danger, they alert the surrounding creatures. 

Scientists Record the Rare Sounds of Narwhal

Narwhal

Narwhals, being shy marine creatures, keep their distance from humans. But while on an expedition to investigate the sounds of a melting glacier, Podolskiy and his team had the chance to conduct a more thorough study of the narwhals. 

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The scientists captured several sounds made by the narwhals, including some buzzing sounds, whistles, and clicks. They called the sound “something not unlike a chainsaw.”

Poldoskiy and his crew recorded the behavior and the change in sound when the Narwhals were hunting for food and near their prey. 

Although the number of studies focusing on Narwhals’ feeding behavior in the summertime is limited, this study offers additional support. The recordings showed evidence of terminal buzz, a sound made when narwhals find their prey. (Source)

To hear the Rare Audio of Narwhal Buzzes. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can a narwhal sound kill you?

That is very unlikely. Narwhals’ sound can only damage a human’s eardrum if they are nearby. 

How do narwhals use echolocation?

Narwhals emit sound from their head that travels through the water in waves and bounces off the objects around them. They use it to detect potential threats and food. 

Are narwhal sounds deafening to humans?

Yes, it can be. Narwhals produce some sounds that can range from 200 to 240 decibels. A human can hear up to 130 decibels, after which it can cause severe ear damage. 

Will narwhals fall silent in an increasingly noisy Arctic?

According to research, the increasing underwater blasts and noise from hunting boats have disrupted Narwhals’ feeding behaviors. Because of these stressful situations, they also stop vocalizing. 

“Human activity should be restricted in some areas because the human-made sound disturbs Narwhals’ lifestyle”. Heide-Jorgensen, Marine Biologist.

Conclusion

Narwhals are shy and sensitive creatures by nature. They rely solely on the sounds they produce to guide them to their prey and communicate. The increasing noise in the ice waters of the Arctic has proven to be very difficult for these creatures. 

While the Narwhals do not harm humans, humans do. The increase in ocean traffic, marine hunting, and underwater blasts create unfamiliar sounds that disrupt the natural mechanisms of these creatures.

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