New Vocal Ability Discovered in Toothed Whales – The Vocal Fry Register

A recent study has uncovered a remarkable new vocal ability in toothed whales, the ability to produce a range of vocalizations including some akin to human “vocal fry”. This remarkable discovery was made possible through the use of vocalization analysis, CT scans and other experiments.[0]

Toothed whales dive as deep as 2000 meters and catch more fish than the human fishing industry.[1] While hunting in these deep and murky waters, they produce short, powerful, ultrasonic echolocation clicks at rates up to 700 per second to locate, track and catch prey.[2] When whales dive deeper than 100m, their lungs collapse in order to prevent compression sickness and they must rely on the air stored in their nasal passages.[2] This provides a small, but sufficient airspace to produce echolocating sound.[1]

This vocal fry technique is similar to the one used by celebrities Kim Kardashian and Katy Perry, where the vocal folds are only open for a very short time, and therefore it takes very little breathing air to use this register. This allows whales access to the richest food niches on earth – the deep ocean.[3]

Professor Coen Elemans and Professor Peter Madsen from the University of Southern Denmark and Aarhus University respectively, have been able to uncover the mechanism that allows whales to produce such loud noises in the deep ocean.[4] This mechanism involves the whales moving all the air into the nose, which allows for much higher driving pressures up to five times what a trumpet player can generate, without damaging the lungs.[5]

The team of researchers also found that whales produce their wide repertoire of sounds with the same organ – the phonic lips in their nose, which vibrate much like a larynx does in humans. This discovery has allowed whales to become an evolutionary success story.[2]

The vocal fry register, also known as creaky voice, produces the lowest tones, the chest register is similar to our normal speaking voice and the falsetto register produces even higher frequencies.[3] Vocal fry can be divisive among Americans, with some finding the low, guttural voice to be grating while others warn the raspy tone makes prospective employees less hireable.[6]

This new discovery took the team close to 10 years to develop, gather and analyze all their data.[7] They filmed tissue motion on trained bottlenose dolphins and harbor porpoises with a high-speed camera, and also taped wild whales with a small sound-recording tags.[6]

0. “Toothed whales use ‘vocal fry' to hunt for food, scientists say” WVXU, 3 Mar. 2023,

1. “Science News | Study Finds Whales Use Vocal Fry to Catch Food in Deep Waters” LatestLY, 3 Mar. 2023,

2. “Toothed whales turned their vocal fry into a hunting superpower” Popular Science, 2 Mar. 2023,

3. “Whales use a sound similar to Kim Kardashian's ‘vocal fry', say scientists” Business Insider, 2 Mar. 2023,

4. “Successful whales and dolphins sound like Kim Kardashian” The Times, 3 Mar. 2023,

5. “Even WHALES use vocal fry! ‘Sexy' speaking technique used by Kim Kardashian helps whales catch food” Daily Mail, 2 Mar. 2023,

6. “Whales have ‘vocal fry’ just like people, study says” The Washington Post, 2 Mar. 2023,

7. “Dolphins and orcas found to use ‘Kim Kardashian-like voice register’ to catch prey” AOL, 3 Mar. 2023,

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