The Hindu: Loud and Proud

Loud and proud

Loud bunch:Coqui frog. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Rawr!: What pride. Photo: AFP

The animal kingdom is full of fascinating creatures. Let’s look at a few that could possibly split your eardrums!

“Shhhh… Not so loud!” Your mum would have warned you time and again as you laugh aloud, cheer when a batsman hits a six or just have a heated argument. Loudness is not appreciated in human society. If someone says, “He’s wearing a loud shirt”, it means the guy is looking gaudy or ostentatious. The normal human conversations are around 60 decibels loud. Goons, brats, hoodlums and, well, some politicians are too loud for our sensibilities. It’s apparent their mums had a tough time.

In the animal kingdom, silence is not a virtue. Being loud or silent is according to necessity, not rowdiness. Animals can be silent to conceal themselves. Or they can be loud to make their presence felt, to warm intruders in their territory, to impress the girls, to warn friends of a predator in the vicinity or they can be loud just for kicks — to give shudders to the pesky ones around.

Some animals are louder than a passing train and others so loud that they can split your eardrums if you can hear their voice (more than 160 decibels)! Who are the loudest ones? Let’s check out a few.

Boomers

The Kakapos of New Zealand have many distinctions — being the only flightless parrot on earth, the heaviest parrot, the longest living (90 to 120 years) and probably the loudest bird. The boys may walk or rather jog for many kilometres in the mating season to find a suitable girl. They make a booming mating call using the thoracic air sac which can be heard by ladies even seven kilometres away! Now you’d do that too if there were just 125 of you left in the world.

Boisterous boatmen

The aquatic bug ‘water boatman’ is no longer than a grain of wheat (2mm) but is the loudest creature on earth compared to its size. These boat shaped bugs with oar-like legs live at the bottom of ponds and most of their loud noise (which can reach 99 decibels!) is lost underwater. And how does the water boatman sing? By rubbing its hairy thin private part on to its belly!

Roaring king

One loud noise that can make our teeth clatter is the roar of a lion. We do not hear most of the loudest animals as we are not attuned for those sounds. This is one recognisable sound that can make us shudder. As loud as a jet plane taking off, the roar of a lion can reach up to 114 decibels and travel over eight kilometres!

Clamorous couples

The loudest amphibians in the world, the coqui frogs, can reach sound levels of 100 decibels! They make their co-qui mating calls at night, making the neighbours look for ear plugs. It is a two-part call — co is a warning call to other mates and qui is to lure the ladies.

Some loud voices and noises seem like silence to us. We find the calls of cicadas, the loudest insects on earth (the Green Grocer and Yellow Monday cicadas can reach up to 120 decibels!), peaceful — as they have their musical drums called tymbals in their abdomens. The howl of a wolf (reaching 90 decibels) can make us cringe. But what scares us most is the voice of a human coming from an unknown source; it need not be a high decibel sound. Imagine in the dead of the night, you’re walking alone in a forest, and there comes a soft laugher from the shadows…he…he…he…he…

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