Hearing in the North Atlantic Right Whale (Eubalaena glacialis)


Darlene Ketten, Biology Department, WHOI

Awarded:  May 2004

The major aim of this study is to determine the hearing characteristics of right whales via modeling and 3-D imaging. A better understanding of right whale hearing and their responses to man-made sound in the oceans is important for right whale conservation and in particular for the development of acoustic devices to alert whales to the presence of a vessel to deter ship strikes.  Because of their large size and remote habitat, right whales are not amenable to traditional, direct physiological techniques for measuring hearing. We propose to develop functional hearing models based on morphometric analyses of middle and inner ears from stranded right whales. Previous research in this laboratory on the hearing of marine mammals has shown that functional morphometric models are reliable estimators of hearing sensitivity in both land and marine species. Preliminary work demonstrates that these techniques are applicable to ears collected from post-mortem tissues of right whales. Further processing of additional specimens is necessary to produce a more robust model of the frequency range of right whale hearing.