Researchers say increasing amounts of underwater noise, largely from shipping traffic, is enveloping rare right whales in "acoustic smog" that makes it harder for them to communicate, Independent Online reports.
The endangered North Atlantic right whale relies far more on sound than sight, using distinctive noises to maintain contact. In the last 50 years, the area where the whales can effectively communicate has fallen by two-thirds because of the noise.
According to Independent Online
, acoustics expert Leila Hatch, a lead author of a paper by federal scientists and Cornell University researchers, compared the whales' plight to a person at a crowded cocktail party who must either speak up or leave the room to be heard. In the whales' case, Hatch said, the animals might change the frequency or volume of their calls, which can limit the effectiveness of the communication and put them under physiological stress.
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