Apr 8, 2009 | 9
In recent years, the U.S. Navy has come under fire because of training exercises involving sonar that whale-lovers charge is deafening marine mammals and, in some cases, leading to their deaths by disrupting their communications and sending them astray. New research suggests that sonar does cause hearing loss, but only when it's extremely loud and extremely close.
Anecdotal evidence abounds of links between sonar training and beachings. For instance, a pod of whales apparently lost their way and washed ashore in the Puget Sound, Wash., in the summer of 2005 following a naval training. But until now, no one had tested the actual impact of the sub "pings" on marine mammals.
Marine biologist Aran Mooney of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and his colleagues report in Biology Letters that they exposed a bottlenose dolphin with an electro-encephalogram (EEG) strapped on his head to a tape of the sonar sounds from that same Puget Sound exercise—15 sonar "pings" over two minutes—and measured his reaction.
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