Monday 8 February 2016

Ship noise stops Orca whales from talking to each other

Underwater sound pollution disrupts the communication methods of killer whales and could harm their ability to locate salmon

7:05PM GMT 02 Feb 2016

Noise from ships interferes with the ability of endangered killer whales to 'talk' to each other and hunt, suggests a new study.

Researchers found underwater sound pollution in coastal habitats disrupts the orca's communication methods and ability to locate scarce salmon.

Scientists set out to discover if noise from a nearby shipping lane interferes with the orca's ability to send out clicks and listen for their echoes in the ocean off Seattle while hunting salmon.

The researchers measured underwater noise as ships passed their study site 3,000 times.

Research has shown that the growth in commercial shipping has raised the intensity of low-frequency noise in the ocean almost 10-fold since the 1960s.

Because the noise occurs at the low frequencies used by baleen whales there is growing evidence it may impact their ability to communicate, and therefore their survival.

But the team behind the new research wanted to know if ship noise could extend to the higher frequencies used by toothed whales and therefore pose similar threats to them.

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