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A treasure trove of untapped seismic data in whale singing echoes

Using the whale’s natural calls is less harmful to the marine environment, and simpler than other methods, when it comes to discovering what is happening on the ocean floor.

A new study conducted in the Northeast Pacific revealed that the echo of fin whale singing from the sea floor could become a useful tool for scientists studying sediments and rocks that make up the Earth’s crust.

The study was conducted by a team from Oregon State University in the United States and published in the journal Science on February 12th.

Untapped treasure

With tens of thousands of fin whales dispersed in all oceans around the world, this singing is one of the strongest and most widespread sounds in the ocean, and it could benefit ongoing surveys, or supplement the shortfall due to the difficulty – or danger – of using the approach. The traditional air cannon on marine life.

The air cannon is usually used in marine reflection and refraction surveys. It consists of one or more air chambers that are filled with compressed air. The air cannons are submerged below the water surface and are towed behind seismic research vessels.

Seismometers can be placed on the ocean floor to capture echoes and fluctuations of the calls of fin whales, revealing the thickness of the Earth’s crust at the bottom, in addition to other seismic information that aids scientific research.

“In the past, humans have used the calls of whales to track them and study their behavior, and we think we can also study the structure of the Earth using these calls. If we look closely at the seismometer data after each whale call, we will notice,” said geophysicist John Nablek of Oregon State University in the university press release. The presence of data indicating the structure of the earth. “

The echo of the whale singing reveals the seismic activities of the ocean floor (foreign press)

Feedback signals

Nablik and his colleagues were studying earthquakes near the Blanco Fracture Zone off the coast of Oregon, using a network of 54 seismometers, when they observed clear readings coinciding with the presence of whales in the area.

A further analysis of 6 calls revealed that underwater singing whales – which can be as loud as large ships and can last for 10 hours or more – bounce off the ocean floor as seismic waves, before being reflected and refracted by ocean sediments, the basalt layer below, and the constituent crust. From gabbro.

The structure of these feedback signals can lead us to an appreciation of the ocean crust structure. The researchers also confirmed that the data from these whale signals are consistent with other scientific phenomena in the region.

“This method makes use of the data that is already collected,” says Nablik. “It also shows that animal sounds are not only useful for understanding animal behavior, but also for understanding their environment.”

Researchers suggest studying the singing of other types of whales, such as the sperm whale (Shutterstock)

Add search methods

More research will be needed to make this method usable, as the singing sounds of fin whales do not provide high-resolution scanning as other seismic survey methods such as an air cannon, for example.

Therefore, this method will not completely replace the technology currently used, but what this method may add is to give scientists a more detailed view of the Earth’s crust at the bottom of the ocean and seismic faults that lead to earthquakes and tsunamis, and the researchers suggest that singing of other types can also be used. From whales, such as a sperm whale.

In addition to the above, the use of artificial intelligence is one of the options to automate some of these analyzes. Using natural whale calls is definitely less harmful to the marine environment, and simpler than other methods, when it comes to discovering what is happening on the ocean floor.

“What we discovered is that whale calls may be an addition to traditional, ineffective seismic research methods,” Nablek says.

Source : Australian Press + websites

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