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Dolphins, orcas and other toothed whales are very vocal creatures. They make super-loud, super-fast clicks. These beacon-like sounds echo off surrounding surfaces. This echolocation allows the animals to find prey in the total dark of the deep sea. These whales and dolphins also talk to each other through whistles and grunts. But until now, it has been a mystery just how they produce such a rich set of sounds.
New research shows that toothed whales make noise by blowing air through a unique structure in their nasal passages. And although these whales speak from the nose rather than the throat, their sound-making setup shares some features with our own. For instance, they make noises in three different vocal registers — vocal fry, chest and falsetto — just as people do. Researchers shared their findings March 2 in Science.
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