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St Andrews scientists ask if whales have 'dialects'

Members of the public are being asked by scientists at the University of St Andrews to help them investigate the way whales communicate. The university's Sea Mammal Research Unit is part of the Whale Project: a global effort to categorise whale calls, co-sponsored by the science magazine Scientific American.

So-called "citizen scientists" from across the world are being urged to listen to and help classify sounds made by the mammals and it aims to establish whether calls vary between different groups of whales. "Citizen scientists" who log on are presented with a whale call and shown where it was recorded on a map of the world's oceans and seas. After listening to the whale call, members of the public are then asked to listen to a number of potential matching calls from the project's database.

If a match is found the results are stored.

Prof Peter Tyack of the University of St Andrews said: "By asking hundreds of people to make similar judgements, we will learn how reliable the categories are, and they get the fun of hearing these amazing sounds." Only a few researchers have categorised whale calls and scientists hope to address a number of questions about whale communication.

For more information or to take part in the project go to the Scientific American website to set up a login and password:


see here for further details
contact: Prof Peter Tyack

item 740
[30-11-2011 to 29-02-2012]

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