Animals are capable of many unique sounds. Many people know about the largest and fastest animals. But what is the loudest animal in the world?
The sperm whale is the loudest animal in the world. They make a series of clicking noises that reach up to 236 decibels. The clicks last for 0.5 to 2.0 seconds. These sounds are used to communicate with other sperm whales, up to 10 miles (16 km) away.
In this post, we’ll dive into the loudest animal, how it makes such loud sounds, and another 13 of the loudest animals on earth.
Sperm Whale is the Loudest Animal in the World
Sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) are the loudest animals in the world. They are louder than blue whales, pistol shrimp, lions, howler monkeys, hyenas, and greater bulldog bats.
How Loud is the Sperm Whale?
There is evidence that usual clicks produced during foraging dives are directional, with an intense, forward-directed beam, presenting levels as high as 236 dB re 1 μPa at 1 m. Their off-axis low frequency components can be detected up to a distance of 15 km in sea state 3.Nature.com
How Sperm Whales Make These Sounds
Sperm whales (also known as cachalot) are uniquely designed to generate these incredibly loud sounds. They have unique organs that are found in the top part of their head.
They are filled with fats and waxes called spermaceti. These fats and waxes are used for the clicking sounds that sperm whales are famous for. This fat and wax are used as an amplifier to send the loud clicks off into the water.
They have two air passages running through their heads.
- One of the passages twists around the spermaceti.
- The other passage flattens out and broadens, forming air-filled sacs that amplify the sound.
Then near the front of the head sit a pair of clappers.
The whale forces air through the right nasal passage to the clappers. They shut and make a clicking noise which bounces off one of the air sacs, and travels through the spermaceti to another sac that is at the base of their skull.
Then it is sent forward and amplified into the water. This sound can be in excess of 230 decibels.
Sperm whales can change the shape of their spermaceti a little and move the air-filled sacs in such a way that they can alter the sounds and have different types of intonation in their clicks and noises.
This variety of sounds allows other animals to understand these clicks and respond if they want to.
Here’s a good visualization of how sperm whales make such a loud sound. And what purpose they serve.
Sperm Whale vs Pistol Shrimp
At just 1.5 in (4 cm), pistol shrimp are tiny but generate a whopping 218 dB of sound.
They generate this sound with the snap of their claw, also producing a temperature burst of 4800 degrees Celsius (similar to the temperature of the sun). It also generates a flash of light.
Pistol shrimp use this method to both stun and kill small fish.
From our research, pistol shrimp are second only to the sperm whale as the loudest animal on the planet.
Here’s more about how their claws can close so quickly.
According to Science Focus, the pistol shrimp is the loudest animal relative to its size.
Sperm Whale vs Blue Whale Sounds
There is some confusion regarding the loudest animal.
Is the sperm whale or the blue whale louder? Sperm whales are louder than blue whales.
According to BBC Earth, the loudest creature on earth is the blue whale. Not true. They incorrectly claim that “these giants of the deep also create the loudest vocalisations of any creature on earth: the call of a blue whale can reach 180 decibels – as loud as a jet plane, a world record.”
As already covered above, the sperm whale generates sounds in excess of 230 dB. And blue whales create sounds up to a respectable 180 decibels.
Underwater Sound Travels Further and Faster
Sound waves travel far faster and far further through water than they do through air: roughly 1500m per second in seawater, compared to just 340m per second in air – more than four times faster. Sound is created by waves of vibration that pass through a medium, such as water or air. Because the atoms in liquids are more tightly packed than in gases, sound travels much faster in the ocean.BBC Earth
More About Sperm Whales
Sperm whales hold many more records than just being able to make the loudest sound.
These giant mammals are the world’s largest toothed whales and the world’s largest toothed predators.
Sperm whales tend to live in the pelagic zone of the ocean. This means that they live out in open water where they can hunt for their food and live with other whales to help find more food when needed.
They will migrate seasonally to find better food and for breeding purposes. Female sperm whales tend to live together with their young offspring. The males and females of the sperm whale do not live together. The females live in packs and help each other find food when needed.
The male sperm whales live solitary lives, only to seek companions when breeding season comes around. The male sperm whales who are still young can live with their mothers for up to ten years before they go out and live on their own.
Here’s a 3D rendering of the appearance of a sperm whale.
14 Loudest Animals on Earth
There are many other loud animals in the world. They are not as loud as the sperm whale but do a great job of competing with them.
Here is a list of the animals that make the loudest sounds. Did I miss one? Let me know in the comments.
- Sperm Whale: 236 decibels
- Pistol Shrimp: 218 decibels
- Blue Whale: 180 decibels
- Greater Bulldog Bat: 140 decibels
- Howler Monkey: 140 decibels
- Kakapo: 132 decibels
- Moluccan Cockatoo: 129 decibels
- Northern Elephant Seal: 126 decibels
- Cicadas (African and Green Grocer): 120 decibels
- North American Bullfrog: 119 decibels
- African Elephant: 117 decibels
- Hippo: 114 decibels
- Lion: 114 decibels
- Hyena: 112 decibels
There are many amazing animals in this world, the loudest of which is the sperm whale. If you have an opportunity to see one of these magnificent beasts firsthand, take the chance.
Have you encountered one of the loudest animals in person? I would love to hear about your experience.
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