Sperm Whales Are Loud Enough To Burst Your Eardrums

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Sperm Whales Are Loud Enough To Burst Your Eardrums

Decibels are the unit scientists use to measure the intensity of sound. An everyday conversation, for example, is around 50 decibels; a jackhammer can top out at 100; and 150 decibels is generally considered enough to burst your eardrums. The loudest sound ever recorded by NASA was the first stage of the Saturn V rocket in 1967, which thundered at a blistering 204 decibels. That's only slightly larger than the 200-decibel click of a sperm whale's echolocation, which speaks to the animal's impressive power. Pressure waves such as sound travel differently in water than they do in air, however, and the click would sound slightly softer on land, at around 174 decibels -- still enough to rupture your eardrums. This raw power comes in handy during echolocation, which the whales use like sonar to hunt for food and navigate the ocean. Scientists once theorized that whales also used their impressive clicks to stun or even kill giant squid, but that theory was proven wrong when a research team played recordings of whales at the appropriate volume for a swarm of prey and were unable to do harm. We've collected some awesome videos on this topic. Watch them now to learn more.

Are Sea Pens The Solution for Captive Marine Mammals?

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Are Sea Pens The Solution for Captive Marine Mammals?

In March 2016, SeaWorld announced the end to their orca breeding program. This is great news to future generations of killer whales that won't be born into captivity, but it brings up an important question for the orcas that remain: will they be released into the wild, or will they live out their days in a concrete tank? Whales and other marine mammals are extremely intelligent, and living in a tank that's a tiny fraction of their natural habitat causes untold physical and psychological issues for the animals. But experts almost unanimously agree that releasing marine mammals that have lived every moment of their lives in captivity -- with no knowledge of how to catch food or otherwise survive without humans -- is a death sentence. There could be a third option: sea pens. These huge, cordoned-off coastal habitats would work on principles similar to wildlife sanctuaries for elephants and great apes, just in the ocean. Humans would provide medical care and other protection, but the animals wouldn't be forced to perform for or otherwise interact with visitors. SeaWorld and other experts are critical of the plan. Sea pens have failed to protect whales in the past; sometimes famously, as in the case of Keiko, the whale depicted in "Free Willy" who escaped his pen and died a few months later. The damaged animals would be exposed to weather, pollution, and other environmental threats that they didn't experience in captivity. There's also the cost, which could reach the tens of millions of dollars, though groups say this could be offset by outreach and educational programs. We've collected some awesome videos on this topic. Watch them now to learn more.

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from TakePart

Key Facts to Know

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    In March 2016, SeaWorld brought an end to its killer-whale breeding program. 29 orcas remain in captivity. 0:00

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    A sea pen is a cordoned-off habitat that serves as a sanctuary for rescued marine mammals. Here's what one might look like. 0:36

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    The cost of building and maintaining the pens, which could be tens of millions of dollars, could be offset by educational programs. 1:35

The Mystery Of The 52-Hertz Whale

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The Mystery Of The 52-Hertz Whale

Also called "the world's loneliest whale," the 52-Hertz whale was first recorded in 1989. Its song was deemed unusual because it's higher than a traditional blue whale or fin whale song, though other elements of the song are similar to those of blue whales. Some scientists believe that this whale may simply be singing in a regional dialect that hasn't been heard before, whereas others say that it may be entirely unique. Many hypothesize that the whale is a hybrid of two species. One popular misconception about it is that other whales cannot hear its strange song. However, that's false-the 52-Hertz whale's singing might be odd, but it's perfectly audible to blue, fin, and humpback whales.

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from SciShow

Wild Killer Whales Have Never Killed A Human

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Wild Killer Whales Have Never Killed A Human

Scientists have a few theories as to why wild killer whales, also called orcas, don't attack people. One is that they're exceptionally picky eaters. Regional pods tend to hunt one type of food exclusively, whether it's salmon or sea lions. But humans are roughly the same size as some sea lions, and are still able to dive near orcas without incident. Some people think that the orcas' aversion to people might even be cultural, similar to a taboo or unspoken rule.

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from DNews

Key Facts to Know

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    Captivity may psychologically traumatize whales, resulting in dangerous behavior. 0:39

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    Killer whales have complex social structures comparable to those of humans and chimps. 1:22

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    Brain studies suggest that killer whales have an advanced capacity for emotional processing. 3:19

Some Whales Have Hair!

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Some Whales Have Hair!

Only some species of whales have visible hair after birth, most notably the boto. Botos have stiff, whisker-like hairs on their beaks that may help them to find food at the bottoms of the rivers and lakes where they live. Some baleen whales, such as the humpback, can have hairs on their snouts, too. The hair on fetal whales is called lanugo, and typically disappears after birth. Humans also have lanugo on their bodies when they're in the womb!

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Key Facts to Know

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    Many whales have hair when they're young. 2:40

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    Maiacetus had strong enough legs and hip bones to walk on land, but is considered a whale. 6:13

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    Whales and hippos are among the only mammals on Earth that have internal testicles. 8:51