Monday, August 30, 2010

How do Whales Hear?

UCSD structural engineering professor Petr Krysl has designed modern computational methods that give a 3D simulated look inside the head of a Cuvier’s beaked whale.
Researchers led by a UC San Diego structural engineering professor are working to understand the potential harmful effects of sound on marine mammals such as whales and dolphins.

The researchers led by Petr Kryls have developed a model that creates a 3-dimensional virtual environment in which they can simulate sounds propagated through the virtual specimen and reveal the interactions between the sound and the anatomy. By having a virtual “peek” inside the whale’s head, the scientists are able to better understand and see how sound may impact or potentially harm marine life. Read the full story by Andrea Siedsma on the Jacobs School site.

“Humans introduce considerable amounts of sound and noise into the oceans of the world,” Krysl said. “Many marine organisms make acute use of sound for their primary sensory modality because light penetrates so poorly into water. The primary focus of our work is Cuvier's beaked whale because some have stranded and died in the presence of Navy sonar. The discoveries we made with regard to the mechanisms of hearing in the beaked whale also apply to the bottlenose dolphin and, we suspect, to all types of toothed whales and perhaps other marine mammals.”

The work was recently published in the journal PLoS One: "A New Acoustic Portal into the Odontocete Ear and Vibrational Analysis of the Tympanoperiotic Complex"

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