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Biol Lett. 2009 June 23; 5(3): 297–301.
Published online 2009 March 4. doi:  10.1098/rsbl.2008.0782
PMCID: PMC2679917

The beluga whale produces two pulses to form its sonar signal

Abstract

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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