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Will You Please Keep the Racket Down?

Human ocean noise may interfere with whales' reproduction

SUNDAY, June 30, 2002 (HealthDayNews) -- Human-created noise may be throwing cold water on whales' ability to court and reproduce.

Scientists from Cornell University, the California Academy of Sciences, and other institutions studied fin whale courtship songs in Mexico's Gulf of California. Fin whale courtship songs, in frequencies far below human hearing range, can travel for hundreds and even thousands of miles.

But those songs now have to compete with very-low-frequency human noises created by ships and other human technology. That human racket may interfere with whale reproduction and hinder their population recovery, the scientists say in a recent study in the journal Nature.

It may be that 20 million years of whale evolution are being undone with the dramatic increase in motorized shipping in the last 100 years, the researchers add.

The fin whale findings probably apply to the closely related blue whale and other species of baleen whales, the scientists say.

But they note that more extensive studies in noisier parts of the oceans are needed before it's confirmed that human-made noises impair whale reproduction.

More information

This article from the University of Southern California says that research already shows that undue ocean noise can alter the habits of marine animals.

SOURCE: Cornell University, news release, June 20, 2002
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