• Question: What are the different ways in which animals can use sound?

    Asked by antisocialash to Alex, Josh, Serena, Simone, Stuart on 25 Jun 2013.
    • Photo: Josh Makepeace

      Josh Makepeace answered on 25 Jun 2013:


      Hey antisociallash – thanks for the question!

      I think the most obvious way animals use sound is to communicate. It might be that they want to let their friends or family know they’re around (lots of birds have very specific calls that their family members can recognise out of huge groups of birds). Or they might want to try and frighten another animal that might wasnt to fight them or attack them. Or they might just want to say hi, or say they’re hungry, or anything else.

      I think one of the coolest ways animals use sound is to locate things. Bats do this, as do some whales. They send out a pulse of sound, and wait to hear the echo. By listening for how long it takes for the sound to get back to them from different directions, they can work out where things are around them. They can use it to find food, or find there way when they can’t see well.

      Do you know any other ways?? I’m interested now 🙂

    • Photo: Simone Sturniolo

      Simone Sturniolo answered on 26 Jun 2013:


      By researching a bit I just found out that there’s something even cooler than using sound to locate things – and that is using sound to KILL things. Or at least stun them (the killing can be done afterwards with ease).

      This shrimp uses its claws to produce a shockwave that literally lifts its preys off their feet (or whatever they have in place of feet, really) and leaves them stunned and confused – ready to be attacked and eaten. Of course it only works because it’s in water – in air, producing such a destructive sound wave would probably require a lot more strength. It’s still quite the awesome feat. Makes you think about how calling someone a “shrimp” means he’s small or a weakling – it doesn’t exclude the chance he could pull a sonic handgun out of his pocket and knock you out cold with that, apparently!

    • Photo: Stuart Archer

      Stuart Archer answered on 27 Jun 2013:


      There’s a lot of cool stuff out there I hadn’t realised before reading up on it!

      Did you know that the call of the blue whale can travel over 1,000 miles?

      The pistol shrimp makes a sonic shockwave that’s so powerful, it temporarily heats the water around the wave to hotter than the surface of the sun!

      There’s a species of fish called the ‘toadfish’ that rapidly inflates and deflates an air-bladder to communicate with it’s friends. A shoal of them was once mistaken by the residents of Los Angeles for a fleet of Russian submarines!

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