Great Ears: Low-Frequency Sensitivity Correlates in Land and Marine Leviathans. Academic Article uri icon


  • Like elephants, baleen whales produce low-frequency (LF) and even infrasonic (IF) signals, suggesting they may be particularly susceptible to underwater anthropogenic sound impacts. Analyses of computerized tomography scans and histologies of the ears in five baleen whale and two elephant species revealed that LF thresholds correlate with basilar membrane thickness/width and cochlear radii ratios. These factors are consistent with high-mass, low-stiffness membranes and broad spiral curvatures, suggesting that Mysticeti and Proboscidea evolved common inner ear adaptations over similar time scales for processing IF/LF sounds despite operating in different media.

publication date

  • 2016