Minke’s whales (Balaenoptera acutorostrata and Balaenoptera bonaerensis) may have great difficulty communicating because the sounds they make may be literally “suffocated” by the overlying noise of the oceans.
These whales, in short, would be losing the ability to communicate, in some ways essential for these groups of animals, especially over long distances, because the background noise of the oceans would become more and more intense.
The researchers made the discovery by analyzing more than 42,000 smaller whales, as reported in an article published on the Science website.
Difficulties in communication could lead these animals to a greater difficulty in finding companions and in general to have social contacts.
The researchers, led by Tyler Helble, marine acoustician of the Naval Information Warfare Center Pacific, have made submarine recordings of the verses of these whales on an area of 1200 km perhaps from the Pacific coast of the United States to the islands of Hawaii from 2012 to 2017.
The researchers have calculated the intensity of the verses emitted by the animals comparing these measurements with the environmental noise, basically that of ocean waves but also the noise produced by the wind on the surface and that of underwater earthquakes.
While other whales have responded to this increase in noise by increasing the intensity of their own verses, Minke whales are not responding in the same way and their calls are relatively quieter than those of other whales.
It is not thought that at the moment they are in danger of extinction but little is known about these marine animals that, thanks to sound, not only engage in social contacts but also perceive and understand their environment, as explained by Regina Guazzo, marine ecologist of the Naval Information Warfare Center Pacific.