Ocean noise has increased exponentially over the past 20 years.

Soundscapes are a relatively new topic of study in the marine science world. Soundscapes describe the interaction of ocean physics and marine life for a region in the ocean. These descriptions give us insight into how sound functions in a particular area and how this may be affecting inhabiting marine life.

The world ocean is full of sounds – everything from a small bubble bursting to the deep groans of a blue whale. But more than just natural sounds exist in the sea, a myriad of human-generated sounds have become increasingly common.

The image to the left represents several examples of anthropogenic and animal sounds. If we take 1 example: small boats and mid-frequency cetaceans (e.g., dolphins), we see that small boats cover a similar frequency range for both dolphin sound production and their hearing range.

What does this mean? This means small boats can generate sounds that are at the same frequencies’ dolphins communicate at and are capable of hearing.

If we take in the whole graph, we can see more than 1 anthropogenic sound and animal sound overlap another’s communication and hearing range. All this compiled noise makes for a very noisy ocean and has the potential to mask animal communication.

Meaning all the noise might drown out one dolphin trying to communicate with another. This could lead to group members getting lost, reduced mating interactions, and other shifts in population dynamics.

Dolphin Click


dB re 1µPa @ 1 m

Modern Commercial Ship


dB re 1µPa @ 1 m


Human noise may be drowning out cetacean sounds

Anthropogenic sounds have been suggested to cause negative impacts on marine mammal behavior and hearing thresholds. Pile driving is considered one of the loudest pulsed sounds. Take a look at what some of the science says about pile driving and bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) populations


How Do Humpback Whales Learn Their Songs?

A Review of “Cultural Confusion: Parsimony, Social Learning, and Humpback Whales” By Heidi Lyn Humpback whales are well known for their elaborate vocal songs, but how do they learn these? Dr. Heidi Lyn – a comparative psychologist studying cognition and communication in non-human animals – has taken a look at how scientists have analyzed this…

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Masking – Are we louder than dolphins?

With human activity increasing both in coastal and deep ocean, the world’s ocean has become quite a noisy environment. Concerned researchers have investigated how this may be impacting marine life, including marine mammals. One study has investigated the potential effects of pile driving on the dynamics of bottlenose dolphin populations. Importance of Sound to Bottlenose…

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