Three-dimensional beam pattern of regular sperm whale clicks confirms bent-horn hypothesis. Academic Article uri icon


  • The three-dimensional beam pattern of a sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus) tagged in the Ligurian Sea was derived using data on regular clicks from the tag and from hydrophones towed behind a ship circling the tagged whale. The tag defined the orientation of the whale, while sightings and beamformer data were used to locate the whale with respect to the ship. The existence of a narrow, forward-directed P1 beam with source levels exceeding 210 dBpeak re: 1 microPa at 1 m is confirmed. A modeled forward-beam pattern, that matches clicks >20 degrees off-axis, predicts a directivity index of 26.7 dB and source levels of up to 229 dBpeak re: 1 microPa at 1 m. A broader backward-directed beam is produced by the P0 pulse with source levels near 200 dBpeak re: 1 microPa at 1 m and a directivity index of 7.4 dB. A low-frequency component with source levels near 190 dBpeak re: 1 microPa at 1 m is generated at the onset of the P0 pulse by air resonance. The results support the bent-horn model of sound production in sperm whales. While the sperm whale nose appears primarily adapted to produce an intense forward-directed sonar signal, less-directional click components convey information to conspecifics, and give rise to echoes from the seafloor and the surface, which may be useful for orientation during dives.

publication date

  • March 2005