Mysterious Metallic Sound In The Mariana Trench Finally Identified

2016-12-21T08:43:04+00:00 December 21, 2016|
Scientists think Minke whales may be producing the call in the deep Mariana Trench. (Credit: Len2040/Flickr)

(Click to enlarge) Scientists think Minke whales may be producing the call in the deep Mariana Trench. (Credit: Len2040/Flickr)

An otherworldly noise that was recorded near the Mariana Trench could be a never-before-heard whale call.

(From Yahoo News / by Megan Gannon)– Dubbed the “Western Pacific Biotwang,” this newly discovered call might be from a minke whale — a type of baleen whale — according to the researchers who documented the vocalization.

Regardless of what species it is, this whale has range: The call includes sounds that span frequencies that reach as low as 38 hertz and as high as 8,000 hertz. Humans can hear sounds between 20 and 20,000 Hz. 

“It’s very distinct, with all these crazy parts,” Sharon Nieukirk, senior faculty research assistant in marine bioacoustics at Oregon State University, said in a statement. “The low-frequency moaning part is typical of baleen whales, and it’s that kind of twangy sound that makes it really unique. We don’t find many new baleen whale calls.”

The call was recorded with autonomous seafaring robots, known as “passive acoustic ocean gliders,” which can dive up to 3,280 feet (1,000 meters) below the surface. Scientists can send these devices out on solo missions to eavesdrop on whale conversations. Nieukirk and her colleagues collected their acoustic data in the fall of 2014 and the spring of 2015, in an area in the Pacific Ocean east of Guam around the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the ocean.

The twangy, five-part call, which lasts up to 3.5 seconds, was recorded regularly during both the fall and spring. The researchers hope that other scientists will identify the call in other data sets so that they can confirm the source. But in their description of the whale call in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, Nieukirk and her colleagues wrote that they suspect a minke whale is responsible for the new call.

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