February 16, 2012 Sounds of a Weddell seal
This journal brought to you by...
- Amy George and her 2nd grade CLUE students at Grahamwood Elementary
- Brenda Silberman and her 4th grade APEX students at Bailey Station Elementary
- St. Ann 3rd grade Sparks students
A Closer Look at… the Sounds of a Weddell seal
Can you hear me now???
Weddell seals are extraordinarily vocal – especially underwater! The booming calls, whistles, chirps, buzzes and trills of this seal sound more like Star Wars sound effects than an animal call!
Let’s listen to one for yourself! Seal sound #1
Scientists have identified and even named 34 individual sounds or call types, and the names might even appear as outrageous as the sounds. Here are a few of the names:
- teeth clatter
- guttural glug
- jaw claps
Here are some other sounds. If you were naming these sounds, what would they be?
Seal sound #2 This ‘chugging’ call was made when one male was defending his territory from another male. Does it sound aggressive?
Seal sound #3 This long descending ‘trill’ was made by a male seal probably trying to impress the female seal.
So, what are they trying to say with these techno sounds?
Most underwater calls are related to social and breeding activities. And, males are usually louder and much more vocal than females. They often use calls to attract a female, compete with another male, and defend their breathing holes. During the ‘vocal’ breeding season, you can hear up to 20 calls per minute! But after that, Weddell seals keep a bit quieter, so their underwater predators, the Leopard seal and Orca whale, don’t hear them.
Although it’s relatively quiet down here now because breeding season has finished (it took place in November and December, just after the females finished nursing their pups), we have still heard a variety of interesting sounds. However, all throughout this season, I've found it very difficult to record them - so I could share it with you. It's almost like the seals are playing a trick on me - here's how the the scenario has gone all season...
- I hear a seal making an incredible sound.
- Excited, I fumble around trying to get my camera out of my jacket. Unfortunately, I have to keep it inside my jacket because the cold weather causes the batteries to die very quickly. Otherwise, I'd be ready!
- Grab my camera.
- Turn it on.
- Sneak up to record the 'out of this world' sound.
- And just as I hit the record button - the seal stops! And the only thing I hear is breathing. Ugh!
Fortunately I'm a patient person - or maybe just lucky - and when we were tagging our second to last seal I hit the jackpot! We came upon a very vocal, very techno sounding seal. And, I was thrilled to finally be able to capture it on film.
Have a look and listen!
Seal sounds provided by Jennifer Burns. The activities/animals depicted were conducted pursuant to NMFS Permit No 87-1851.