How Do Dolphins Make Noise?


Dolphins Use Sonar to Make Sounds

  • Dolphins love to make noise both under water and above water. Dolphins use their sonar capabilities to produce sound under water. These sounds serve a very important purpose because they help the dolphin to hunt, navigate and study their environment. Researchers have found that the sounds that are created under water actually come from the dolphin's brain first, but there are only theories and speculation as to what happens next. According to the Dolphin Research Center (see Resources below), there are two theories about how dolphins actually create sound under water. The first theory is that the dolphin's air sacs actually work as an "acoustical mirror" and that the sound is produced from tiny portions of fatty tissue right under the blowhole. As air moves past these tissues, it can create pressure that transmits a pulse into the ocean.

Dolphins Kill Fish With Sound

  • The other theory is that the dolphins use their nasal sacs to make sounds under water. These little sacs are found under the blowhole. When the dolphins go to the surface to take a breath, they pull the air in and close their blowhole. This air inhaled by the dolphins will fill up the sacs and cause pressure to create sound. Dolphins have also been seen to produce sound under water in order to kill other fish and marine life. This clearly shows that dolphins use sound to hunt. Dolphins also use their sonar to communicate with each other, and they can even talk to other dolphins that are not of the same species. Dolphins are believed to be very intelligent creatures of the ocean.

Dolphins Can Produce Sound Above Water

  • Sounds are produced by dolphins when they are out of the water as well. Dolphins can do this by pushing air directly through their blowholes. They use the muscles inside the lining of their air hole to force air out of the blow hole. The dolphins can also make noise in response to what they see going on above water. For instance, if a dolphin is excited when a little girl pets him, the dolphin can open its mouth to squeak with delight. This other sound is produced by vocal cords inside the dolphin's throat. Dolphins need to come up to the surface to breath, which is probably why they have a system for making sound under water and above water.

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