Loro Parque leads the way with study into the hearing of whales
A recent study with the whales of Loro Parque and published in The Journal of Acoustical Society of America has perfected the methodology that helps assess the hearing capacity of large whales, a very complex technique due to the huge layer of fat that covers their brain.
For this, synthetic sound waves have been developed that take into account the anatomical characteristics of the animals’ inner ear, so that they stimulate all the neurons responsible for detecting the different sound frequencies at the same time. This produces a more intense brain response in cetaceans, which is easier to measure through fat.
“This methodology opens the door to the study of the acoustic capacity of large whales, something that so far has not been possible, and which is critical in establishing how the growing underwater noise is affecting them,” said a Loro Parque spokesman. “The impact of humanity on the increase in noise in the oceans represents a great threat to cetaceans and this type of study is essential for states and international organisations to establish measures to protect and limit noise to protect whales.”
In addition, this study has served to confirm the deafness of Morgan the whale, which had already been detected by her caregivers and verified with other previous scientific studies. The technique used on this occasion is the most sensitive that exists, so Morgan’s total absence of brain response to the sounds leaves no doubt that this rescued killer whale in Holland has a deafness whose cause is unknown.
Since Morgan’s deafness was first detected, the Orca Ocean team of caregivers, in Loro Parque, has designed a system based on gestures and lights that they use to com-municate with her and that has allowed her full integration into the group. Today, Morgan is in a perfect state of well-being in the Park and has already had her first offspring, Ula, who will be a year old in September.