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Biol Lett. Jun 23, 2009; 5(3): 297–301.
Published online Mar 4, 2009. doi:  10.1098/rsbl.2008.0782
PMCID: PMC2679917
The beluga whale produces two pulses to form its sonar signal
Marc O. Lammers1,2* and Manuel Castellote3
1Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, University of Hawaii, Kaneohe, HI 96744, USA
2Oceanwide Science Institute, PO Box 61692, Honolulu, HI 96744, USA
3Research Department, L'Oceanografic, Valencia 46013, Spain
*Author for correspondence (lammers/at/
Received December 19, 2008; Revised January 21, 2009; Accepted January 23, 2009.
Odontocete cetaceans use biosonar clicks to acoustically probe their aquatic environment with an aptitude unmatched by man-made sonar. A cornerstone of this ability is their use of short, broadband pulses produced in the region of the upper nasal passages. Here we provide empirical evidence that a beluga whale (Delphinapterus leucas) uses two signal generators simultaneously when echolocating. We show that the pulses of the two generators are combined as they are transmitted through the melon to produce a single echolocation click emitted from the front of the animal. Generating two pulses probably offers the beluga the ability to control the energy and frequency distribution of the emitted click and may allow it to acoustically steer its echolocation beam.
Keywords: echolocation, beluga, click, double pulse, sound production, phonic lips
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