NEOMED Researcher Hears Humpback Whales’ Pain

New England typically hosts tourists who are eager to visit the region’s many historical sites, world-class museums and breathtaking scenery. Each summer, the area also greets a very special group of guests: humpback whales.

However, the whales may find the accommodations not quite up to par. According to a recent study, low-frequency noise from passing freighters and cargo ships near the coast could be disrupting their ability to feed.

Hans Thewissen, Ph.D., professor of anatomy, lent his expertise on humpback whales to CBS News to explain just how the whales are affected by all the hullabaloo.

“If you sit at a beach restaurant and suddenly a Mariachi band walks by, you look up,” said Dr. Thewissen. “So your dining experience is disturbed, even if the same thing happens commonly at that restaurant, but the disturbance is not a big deal. If you sit at a black tie dinner, and someone blows a tuba in your ear, you might get up and leave. There too, your dinner is disturbed, but now the disruption is not trivial.”

So don’t bring my tuba to the next black-tie affair. Got it. But what about the whales?

“This study is important as it shows statistically that the whales are disturbed. Scientists guessed that but did not know it for sure. The critical question next is how badly it disrupts the dinner of the whales,” Thewissen continued.

Read the full article from CBS News.

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