How Would a Charming Mermaid Sound Underwater?

MERMAID

Mermaids: Mythical Creatures

Mermaids, mythical creatures often depicted with fishy tails and enchanting songs, have captured the human imagination for centuries. But have you ever wondered how a mermaid’s songs would sound if you were underwater with her? In this article, we’ll explore the fascinating world of mermaid sounds and how their marine creature features would influence their ability to hear and produce sounds.

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The Basics of Sound and Hearing

To understand how mermaids would communicate underwater, we must first grasp the basics of sound and hearing. Sound is created when an object vibrates, causing atoms and molecules to move in waves through different mediums like gases, liquids, and solids. In humans, sound waves enter the air-filled space in each earhole, vibrating the eardrum and converting the vibrations into electrical signals in the cochlea—the inner ear structure responsible for hearing.

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Hearing Mermaids Underwater

Underwater, the hearing process changes due to water filling the earholes, making humans rely on sound waves directly vibrating the skull—an experience shared by marine creatures. Water and bone have similar densities, which means that underwater, bone conduction becomes the primary method of hearing. While this allows sea creatures to hear effectively underwater, humans are better attuned to sound waves striking their eardrums, resulting in superior sound quality through air conduction.

Moreover, determining the source of sound underwater can be challenging. In the air, the slight variation in timing between sound reaching each ear helps the brain locate the source. However, in water, sound travels faster due to the closer particle arrangement, leading to minimal time differences between sound hitting each ear. Consequently, underwater noise sounds full, making it challenging to pinpoint its origin.

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Mermaid’s Marine Creature Features

If mermaids were real and communicated with each other, their hearing and sound-making abilities might resemble those of marine creatures. Marine mammals like whales, dolphins, and seals, which share similar hearing mechanisms with humans, offer valuable insights. These creatures have cochleae, ear bones, and eardrums, and they have evolved adaptations to hear underwater.

For example, some marine mammals have fat in their lower jaws that directs sound to the bony middle ear with a unique composition suitable for transmitting acoustic waves. Others possess convertible ears that open on land to pick up sound waves through air but swell with fluid when diving, transferring sound effectively from water to the cochlea.

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Singing Underwater

Mermaids, like marine mammals, might possess the ability to “sing” underwater by creating complex noises with musical notes or rhythms. Marine mammals produce sounds by passing air along tissues to vibrate them, similar to how humans use their voice box. However, marine mammals don’t need to exhale to make noise, as this would waste precious air, especially during prolonged songs or conversations underwater.

A mermaid’s vocal system could be akin to baleen whales, such as humpbacks, which possess large vibrating structures in their throats that emit low-pitched sounds capable of traveling great distances underwater. Additionally, mermaids might communicate through other means, such as clicking their teeth together, clapping, or even expelling air from their backside, similar to some fish.

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Mermaid’s Unique Communication

If we were to meet a mermaid, her communication system might be a blend of fish-like and mammalian features. Motion-detecting cells could line her tail, helping her sense vibrations in the water. Her ears might function like a seal’s, facilitating hearing both in and out of water, while her air recycling system would enable her to sustain conversations or songs underwater without the need for frequent resurfacing.

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Conclusion:

While mermaids remain mythical creatures of folklore and imagination, exploring how their marine creature features might influence their sounds and communication adds to the fascination surrounding these enigmatic beings. If they were real, mermaids would embody a mesmerizing combination of aquatic and mammalian characteristics, making their songs and communication a symphony of the sea.

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Power Words

acoustic: Having to do with sound or hearing.

adaptation: (in biology) The development of new programs, processes, policies and structures to make communities and their inhabitants better able to head off — or at least withstand — the dangerous impacts of a warming climate. Those impacts may include drought, flooding, wildfires, extreme heat and extreme storms.

amplify: To increase in number, volume or other measure of responsiveness.

anatomy: (adj. anatomical) The study of the organs and tissues of animals. Or the characterization of the body or parts of the body on the basis of structure and tissues. Scientists who work in this field are known as anatomists.

aquatic: An adjective that refers to water.

atom: The basic unit of a chemical element. Atoms are made up of a dense nucleus that contains positively charged protons and uncharged neutrons. The nucleus is orbited by a cloud of negatively charged electrons.

baleen: A long plate made of keratin (the same material as your fingernails or hair). Baleen whales have many plates of baleen in their mouths instead of teeth. To feed, a baleen whale swims with its mouth open, collecting plankton-filled water. Then it pushes water out with its enormous tongue. Plankton in the water become trapped in the baleen, and the whale then swallows the tiny floating animals.

biologist: A scientist involved in the study of living things.

blowhole: (in biology) Nostrils on the top of the head of a cetacean (whale, porpoise or dolphin) through which the animal breathes. Toothed whales (like orcas) have one, baleen whales, such as right whales, have a pair.

cell: (in biology) The smallest structural and functional unit of an organism. Typically too small to see with the unaided eye, it consists of a watery fluid surrounded by a membrane or wall. Depending on their size, animals are made of anywhere from thousands to trillions of cells. Most organisms, such as yeasts, molds, bacteria and some algae, are composed of only one cell.

conduction: One of three major ways that energy is transferred. (The other two are convection and radiation.) In conduction, energy is transferred when atoms and molecules bump into each other, with slower, colder particles gaining energy from the warmer, faster ones that slam into them.

dolphins: A highly intelligent group of marine mammals that belong to the toothed-whale family. Members of this group include orcas (killer whales), pilot whales and bottlenose dolphins.

ecologist: A scientist who works in a branch of biology that deals with the relations of organisms to one another and to their physical surroundings.

fat: A natural oily or greasy substance occurring in plants and in animal bodies, especially when deposited as a layer under the skin or around certain organs. Fat’s primary role is as an energy reserve. Fat also is a vital nutrient, though it can be harmful if consumed in excessive amounts.

humpback: A species of baleen whale (Megaptera novaeangliae), perhaps best known for its novel “songs” that travel great distances underwater. Huge animals, they can grow up to more than 15 meters (or around 50 feet) long and weigh more than 35 metric tons.

liquid: A material that flows freely but keeps a constant volume, like water or oil.

mammal: A warm-blooded animal distinguished by the possession of hair or fur, the secretion of milk by females for feeding their young, and (typically) the bearing of live young.

marine: Having to do with the ocean world or environment.

marine biologist: A scientist who studies creatures that live in ocean water, from bacteria and shellfish to kelp and whales.

marine mammal: Any of many types of mammals that spend most of its life in the ocean environment. These include whales and dolphins, walruses and sea lions, seals and sea otters, manatees and dugongs — even polar bears.

mass: A number that shows how much an object resists speeding up and slowing down — basically a measure of how much matter that object is made from.

matter: Something that occupies space and has mass. Anything on Earth with matter will have a property described as “weight.”

molecule: An electrically neutral group of atoms that represents the smallest possible amount of a chemical compound. Molecules can be made of single types of atoms or of different types. For example, the oxygen in the air is made of two oxygen atoms (O2), but water is made of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom (H2O).

muscle: A type of tissue used to produce movement by contracting its cells, known as muscle fibers. Muscle is rich in protein, which is why predatory species seek prey containing lots of this tissue.

organ: (in biology) Various parts of an organism that perform one or more particular functions. For instance, an ovary is an organ that makes eggs, the brain is an organ that makes sense of nerve signals and a plant’s roots are organs that take in nutrients and moisture.

particle: A minute amount of something.

recycle: To find new uses for something — or parts of something — that might otherwise be discarded, or treated as waste.

sea: An ocean (or region that is part of an ocean). Unlike lakes and streams, seawater — or ocean water — is salty.

skull: The skeleton of a person’s or animal’s head.

solid: Firm and stable in shape; not liquid or gaseous.

sound wave: A wave that transmits sound. Sound waves have alternating swaths of high and low pressure.

species: A group of similar organisms capable of producing offspring that can survive and reproduce.

tissue: Made of cells, it is any of the distinct types of materials that make up animals, plants or fungi. Cells within a tissue work as a unit to perform a particular function in living organisms. Different organs of the human body, for instance, often are made from many different types of tissues.

vibrate: To rhythmically shake or to move continuously and rapidly back and forth.

vocal cords: A pair of membranes that are stretched over the opening of the larynx. They open when someone inhales air. They close when an animal holds his or her breath. But most importantly, they provide sounds — the voices — of animals. This happens as they vibrate when air is expelled from the lungs and squeezed through them. Animals can control the tension in these membranes, and how much they open. This provides the pitch of a sound and how loud it is, from a whisper to a bellow.

voice box: The hollow, muscular organ forming an air passage to the lungs and holding the vocal cords in people and other mammals. It’s also known as the larynx.

wave: A disturbance or variation that travels through space and matter in a regular, oscillating fashion.

whale: A common, but fairly imprecise, term for a class of large mammals that lives in the ocean. This group includes dolphins and porpoises.

CITATIONS

Webpage: National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. How Do We Hear?

WebpageDiscovery of Sound in the Sea.

Webpage: Frontiers for Young Minds. Hear and There: Sounds from Everywhere!

Journal: K. Sørensen, J. Christensen-Dalsgaard and M. Wahlberg. Is human underwater hearing mediated by bone conduction? Hearing Research. Vol. 420, July 2022. doi: 10.1016/j.heares.2022.108484.

Journal: C. Reichmuth et al. Comparative assessment of amphibious hearing in pinnipedsJournal of Comparative Physiology A. Vol. 199, June 2013, p. 491. doi: 10.1007/s00359-013-0813-y.

Journal: J.S. Reidenberg and J.T. Laitman. Discovery of a low frequency sound source in Mysticeti (baleen whales): Anatomical establishment of a vocal fold homologThe Anatomical Record. Vol. 290, June 2007, p. 745. doi: 10.1002/ar.20544. 


FAQs

  1. Are mermaids real? As of now, there is no scientific evidence to support the existence of mermaids. They remain creatures of myth and legend.
  2. What do mermaids sound like in movies? In movies and popular culture, mermaids are often portrayed as having melodious and alluring voices that captivate humans.
  3. How would a mermaid’s communication differ from humans? Mermaids, if real, would rely on bone conduction to hear underwater, and their communication might involve complex noises similar to marine mammals.
  4. Do marine creatures use bone conduction for hearing? Yes, many marine mammals use bone conduction to hear underwater, which is an effective method due to water’s density.
  5. What adaptations do marine mammals have for hearing underwater? Marine mammals have evolved various adaptations, such as special fat in their lower jaws and convertible ears, to enhance their hearing abilities below the water’s surface.

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