Sound is incredibly important to whales and dolphins for hunting, navigating and communicating. Toothed whales and baleen whales use sound quite differently. Toothed whales and dolphins (for example short-finned pilot whales and bottle-nose dolphins) use echolocation for hunting and navigating, while baleen whales (for example humpbacks and blue whales) generally produce a series of sounds which are frequently termed 'songs' that are used for communicating.
Whale songs consist of distinct sequences of groans, moans, roars, sighs and high pitched squeals that may last up to 10 minutes or longer. It is thought these sounds could be used for communicative purposes such as to identify other individuals, for long-range contact and to warn others of threats as well as navigation. Baleen whales do not have vocal chords so scientists are still unsure how whale songs are produced.
Blue whale song
Fin whale song
Humpback whale song
Minke whale song
Note: Both the blue whale and fin whale songs are five times their normal speed. Normally sounds from these whales are too low for humans to hear.
Toothed whales have developed a remarkable sensory ability used for locating food and for navigation underwater called echolocation. Toothed whales produce a variety of sounds by moving air between air spaces or sinuses in the head. Sounds are reflected or echoed back from objects, and these are thought to be received by an oil filled channel in the lower jaw and conducted to the middle ear of the animal.
Sound of a sperm whale echolocating
When swimming normally, the sounds emitted are generally low frequency; the echoes from these sounds provide information about the seafloor, the shorelines, underwater obstacles, water depth, and the presence of other animals underwater. A recent theory suggests that very high intensity focussed sounds may be used to stun or disorient prey in hunting.
Echolocation is extremely sensitive and some scientists think it may provide toothed whales and dolphins with a three dimensional view of the world. The whistles, clicks, groans and other noises made by many toothed whales are also thought to be also important in communication between individuals.
Our Acoustics Program
The more we know about cetaceans and their behavior, the more we can do to help conserve them. We want to continue our acoustics work in earnest this summer and as such we are opening up our acoustics programs to volunteers from June through August. We have a dedicated program where volunteers will be heading out on the RIB (high speed boat) recording the acoustics of both short-finned pilot whales and bottlenose dolphins. You will be trained how to use the hydrophone and assist in the recording of acoustics. During the program you will also be asked to contribute to the data collection and analysis (e.g. recording cetaceans number and behaviour at regular intervals, preliminary analysis of cetaceans digital photos, etc).
As part of the program you will:
- Be on the acoustics RIB 2 to 3 times per week
- Be an integral part of our cetacean research program
- Be trained how to use state of the art acoustics equipment
- Be a part of our important research and conservation work
- Be overseen by a scientific supervisor to assist in any pre-agreed university work
Dates and Costs
£300/€350 per week (excluding flights)
+ £/€30 for an AWdF T-shirt (which must worn on the Whale Watching Boats) and an AWdF Induction Pack.
For our volunteers on the Research Guiding placement or if you are in intern, you can add days on the RIB working on the Acoustics Research for £35/€40 per day and can add this to the standard booking, before you arrive or whilst on the project - please get in touch with us after you book if you decide you want to spend any days on the RIB.
The cost per week covers:
You will be based at our project base in Tenerife - a wonderfully and quirky converted Canarian farmhouse, with panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean, which our volunteers love!
This project runs throughout the year with start dates every Sunday.
You can join us in Tenerife on the Whale and Dolphin project for a minimum of 1 week.
Away from your research work, we encourage you to take the opportunity to explore the islands hidden secrets and sample the traditional historic towns as well as the stunning natural landscapes. We would also encourage you to climb Mount Teide, an active volcano, as part of The Teide Challenge.
Tenerife also offers everything you would expect from a fantastic tourist location, and through AWdF we can offer you discounted rates on scuba diving, quad biking, surfing, paddleboarding and climbing.