Scientists have finally been able to record what narwhals sound like in many different situations.
Why Narwhals are Hard to Study
Known as "Arctic unicorns," narwhals are pretty shy. They often spend their time under deep, frozen Arctic waters or in the glacial fjords of Canada and Greenland during the summer, which is why scientists have had a hard time getting to know these majestic sea creatures.
Although there are countless times when they are closer to the surface for researchers to study them, they can easily swim away if they feel any motorized boat approaching their location.
In addition, glacial fronts can be tough to navigate, adding to the challenge of studying these creatures.
Nevertheless, a group of researchers was finally able to record the sounds that these unicorns of the sea make, aptly named for the single horn on their foreheads like the ones the mythical creature has.
Recording The Sounds
In a report by Good News Network, several researchers went with Inuit whale hunters on their expeditions to northwest Greenland in July 2019 to study the narwhals in detail while they spend their summer around the area.
By attaching underwater microphones underneath small boats, they were able to record the sounds that these cetaceans produce, including when they are calling out to their fellow narwhals or when they are foraging.
The closest they were able to get from these shy creatures is within 25 meters or 82 feet.
The team was able to record narwhals whistling, which is their social call, as well as the sound of clicking they used for echolocation, a biological sonar that several animals have to find and navigate to their food, including bats, several types of whales, and dolphins.
According to the study, the narwhals would begin clicking faster as they approach their food until the sound turns into a sort of buzzing.
Through the recordings, they were able to find strong evidence that these cetaceans do forage for food during the summer, contradicting previous studies made about them.
In addition, the group was also able to discover that these creatures get closer to glacier ice at roughly 1 kilometer or only half a mile away, unlike what was previously thought of.
Why Studying Narwhals and Fjords are Essential
"Their world is the soundscape of this glacial fjord," said Evgeny Podolskiy, a geophysicist from the Hokkaido University in Japan and the lead researcher of the study, which is now published at AGU's Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans.
"There are many questions we can answer by listening to glacier fjords in general," the researcher said.
According to the news outlet, Podolskiy and his team were actually studying the fjords of Greenland for several years already, recording the sounds that the melting glaciers made, but they saw a group of narwhals during the summer of 2019 in the area and saw an excellent opportunity to study them as well.
"I realized working in the area and not paying attention to the elephant in the room-the key endemic legendary Arctic unicorn just flowing around our glacier-was a big mistake," he said.