Above the ice, the Waddell seals interact with the guttural cries of a Wookie, but research published in the American Journal of the Acoustic Society of America has discovered that under the ice it is a very different story. With a clear correlation with the sound effects of Star Wars, microphones recorded the Waddell seal to create ultrasonic voices for a George Lucas film, and researchers were amazed at its purpose.
Unusual sounds produced by Waddell seals, Leptonychotes weddellii, were recorded using an underwater microphone called a hydrophone. The data collection period at McMurdo Sound in Antarctica lasted two years after the establishment of the McMurdo Oceanographic Observatory, where workers are said to have fallen asleep listening to the occasional soft ultrasonic sound of seals.
The recordings were analyzed by biologists at the University Of Oregon (UO) who found nine different types of tonal ultrasonic seal vocalizations reaching 50 kHz, which is about 20 kHz above ear sound that is recognizable to the human ear. If you think we’re exaggerating as many citations as possible for the movie franchise (Jar-Jar Binks was a Sith Lord btw), check out the words for yourself in the video.
As the southernmost mammal in the world, marriages have adapted to animals with toothed ice capable of carving holes in the air so they can dive up to 600 meters in frozen water in search of prey. They can hover for more than an hour without coming into the air, so communication under the ice is probably as necessary as the top.
The study’s lead author Paul Cziko, a visiting research professor in the UO’s Institute of Ecology and Evolution said, “The Waddell seal calls under the ice are almost incredible, creating a soundtrack to other worlds.” “It really feels like you’re in the middle of a space battle between ‘Star Wars, ’laser beams and everything.” It was thanks to the Observatory’s Broadband Digital Hydrophone that a new form of vocalization was invented. These recording tools were superior to the options used in the past because they were more sensitive and better able to detect high-frequency vocalizations.
When the researchers accepted the ultrasonic call types in the data, they realized that seals use these calls quite regularly. Elements including chips, whistles, and trills make up other earthly words, but what exactly they mean remains a mystery. It’s a mystery, for example, that marriages become the first pinnipeds to vowel over the frequencies of audible sounds.
Cziko said, “The possibility of seals using several types of echolocation has really been discounted year after year.” “There was actually quite a heated discussion in our group about how seals use these ultrasonic words for echolocation-like behavior.” To date, there is no evidence of echolocation in the Waddell seals, but the fancy form of communication for the clade presents an interesting discovery made a short time ago in an observation.