The monopulsed nature of sperm whale clicks

J Acoust Soc Am. 2003 Aug;114(2):1143-54. doi: 10.1121/1.1586258.


Traditionally, sperm whale clicks have been described as multipulsed, long duration, nondirectional signals of moderate intensity and with a spectrum peaking below 10 kHz. Such properties are counterindicative of a sonar function, and quite different from the properties of dolphin sonar clicks. Here, data are presented suggesting that the traditional view of sperm whale clicks is incomplete and derived from off-axis recordings of a highly directional source. A limited number of assumed on-axis clicks were recorded and found to be essentially monopulsed clicks, with durations of 100 micros, with a composite directionality index of 27 dB, with source levels up to 236 dB re: 1 microPa (rms), and with centroid frequencies of 15 kHz. Such clicks meet the requirements for long-range biosonar purposes. Data were obtained with a large-aperture, GPS-synchronized array in July 2000 in the Bleik Canyon off Vesterålen, Norway (69 degrees 28' N, 15 degrees 40' E). A total of 14 h of sound recordings was collected from five to ten independent, simultaneously operating recording units. The sound levels measured make sperm whale clicks by far the loudest of sounds recorded from any biological source. On-axis click properties support previous work proposing the nose of sperm whales to operate as a generator of sound.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustics
  • Animals
  • Time Factors
  • Ultrasonics*
  • Vocalization, Animal*
  • Whales