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3D Look Inside a Whale's Head

Through the wonders of computer simulation, Petr Krysl has spent the last few years looking inside the head of a beaked whale. The UC San Diego structural engineering professor, along with scientists at San Diego State University and the Kolmåen Zoo in Sweden, has developed an approach that integrates advanced computing, X-ray CT scanners, and modern computational methods that has led to a breakthrough discovery allowing scientists to better understand the potential harmful effects of sound on marine mammals such as whales and dolphins.

The model the researchers have developed creates a 3-dimensional virtual environment in which they can simulate sounds propagated through the virtual specimen and reveal the interactions between the sound and the anatomy.

"Humans introduce considerable amounts of sound and noise into the oceans of the world," said Krysl, who developed the computational methods for this research. "Many marine organisms make acute use of sound for their primary sensory modality because light penetrates so poorly into water. The discoveries we made with regard to the mechanisms of hearing in the beaked whale also apply to the bottlenose dolphin and, we suspect, to all types of toothed whales and perhaps other marine mammals."

Engineers are using 3D computer simulation to study sound impacts on marine mammals such as beaked whales and bottlenose dolphins.

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