March 11, 2023

Bioacoustics of whales in the news!

Last week I caught this article in the Washington Post about how whales can use "vocal fry" in some of their sound production. The Washington Post article definitely used the hook of vocal fry as being associated with something that (often, young) women face criticism for. I have never understood why so many people seem to have extreme opinions about how people's speech sounds in terms of the creakiness or register of the voice. I am just not sensitive to it, and although I have heard people with distinctive voices, I guess I default to trying to judge them by what they say rather than how they sound as they say it.

Anyway, back to the science presented in the article. The source of the research was a recent paper in the journal Science. I don't have access to this journal, but I did poke around a bit on the page enough to read the abstract and "Secrets of whale vocal anatomy" paragraph. I downloaded the videos included in the supplementary materials. If you're a fan of seeing how science is done, it's always interesting to get a peek into the process by watching videos like these. The footage is raw and different from what you might expect in a science documentary. I love stuff like this! 

I also skimmed through the references and noted several citations to articles from JASA - I'm sure there were several ASA members pleased to see their work cited in Science.  

Anyway, bioacoustics is a really fascinating field and I'm happy to see it get noticed by these publications. I sort of wish the fraught topic of vocal fry in humans hadn't been used to make the science seem catchier, though.

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