The Hindu: Call of the Wild

Call of the WILD


Listen to the sounds:(Left) Deadly Sea Pistol. (Above) Howler monkeys.Photos: Special Arrangement

From the sambar deer to the howler monkey, the blue whale to the tiger pistol shrimp, they all have one thing in common…they are a noisy lot!

We might or might not hear it. But sound is everywhere — deep inside the ponds, rivers and oceans or in the quietest of jungles, in the dead of the night.

The alarm call of a sambar deer can make you jump out of your skin. The sound of a tiny cricket, if you’re standing too near it, may leave your ears buzzing for a while. Even the call of the dazzling dancer, the peacock, can jerk you out of a stupor. While we humans believe that silence is the best language of all, the animal kingdom has no such philosophy. They’re clear — they want to spread their message far and wide; and most of all — their calls of love.

Some loudmouths

Deadly Sea Pistol

This creature doesn’t have any distinction in size. In fact, it is as big as your finger. The claws of the Tiger Pistol Shrimp are used as weapons. Found in the tropical reefs, it snaps its claws to produce a sonic wave that stuns or kills its prey. It reaches 218 decibels — louder than a gunshot! This prawn is louder than a jet engine.

The Fisherman

Sounds above 120 decibels are painful to our ears. Those above 160 can rupture our eardrums. Thankfully, we can’t hear most of the loudest animals. Either they live underwater or their sound frequencies are beyond our hearing range. The greater bulldog bat or the fisherman bat is actually a fisherman. It is a fishing bat that loves its fish Japanese style (raw), and sometimes a side dish of a moth or a beetle to go along with it. It is one of the loudest of bats and uses echolocation to locate the movement of fish. Thankfully, we can’t hear this delightfully loud echolocation that can make us cover our ears and howl in pain.

The Howlers

The howls of the howler monkey troops can be heard up to five km away! These bearded, melancholic monkeys are the biggest of the new world primates. The male howlers have a shell like chamber in their throats that amplifies the call. They use their tails for gripping as if it is a third hand. They can even hang from a branch with it! The Mayans revered and worshipped these monkeys. And some tribes even worshipped their sleek tails!

Gentle giants

Their size puts dinosaurs to shame. The blue whale is the Earth’s largest animal. Their underwater supersonic sound is louder than jumbo jets. Humans communicate at 60 decibels while the call of blue whales can reach up to 188! They can hear each other up to 1,600km away! That’s like calling from Mumbai and being heard in Rameshwaram. Well, you’d expect that of a creature whose tongue alone weighs as much as an elephant.

These are a few of the loudmouths in the animal kingdom. Then there are the soft spoken ones too. Like the gorgeous yellow necked green pigeon or the unsophisticated shrew. Be it the softies or the loudmouths, they just have to attend one of our rock concerts to give them a cardiac arrest.

The writer is the author of fiction and non-fiction books & Ex-Hon. Wildlife Warden, Udaipur

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