Beaked whales have extraordinary diving abilities. Blainville’s (Mesoplodon densirostris) and Cuvier’s (Ziphius cavirostris) beaked whales have recorded dives up to 1251 m and 1885 m in depth, respectively. The whales are highly vocal during these deep foraging dives, using echolocation to find their prey, deep-sea squid and fish. Through the use of Digital Acoustic Recording Tags (D-tags) (See also: Tagging Studies), scientists have recorded a variety of vocalizations, including clicks, click trains, and buzzes, during foraging dives. This “vocal phase” lasts 20-30 minutes during each dive.Researchers have discovered that Blainville’s beaked whales actually produce two distinct click types: search clicks and buzz clicks. Each of the click types occurs during a different phase of the foraging dive. Search clicks are emitted during the approach phase, at intervals of 0.2-0.4 s and a frequency of 26-51 kHz. Since strong echoes are received from these clicks, scientists believe they function to enhance prey detection and classification. When the target is about one body length away (2-5 m), the whale switches to buzz clicks, short bursts of sound at a frequency of 25-80 kHz or higher. Buzz clicks are highly repetitive, and researchers estimate that the whales may click 300 or more times in the last 3 m of their approach to the target.
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