“Voices in the ocean,” a commentary co-authored by Visiting Adjunct Professor of Voice Science Christian T. Herbst, Ph.D., on how toothed whales produce voice, was published in Science Magazine earlier this month. With an impact factor of 63.714, Science is amongst the world’s most prestigious academic publications. In this piece, work by Madsen et al. shows that this group of ocean-dwelling mammals use their nasal passage to produce sounds for both echolocation and social communication. Surprisingly, the physical mechanism is similar to humans, other mammals and even songbirds, who produce voice in their throat and syrinx respectively. But the parallels go even deeper! Apparently, the vocal mechanisms of toothed whales and humans share numerous physiological similarities, including the use of singing voice registers. These registers allow humans to sing in diverse musical genres, from opera to death metal screaming.
Dr. Herbst is an Austrian research associate of the Janette Ogg Voice Research Center at Shenandoah Conservatory. He is also on the faculty of the Department of Cognitive Biology at the University of Vienna and the Department of Vocal Studies at Mozarteum University in Salzburg, Austria. Researchers from Stanford University recently credited Dr. Herbst with being one of the world’s top 2% of the most-cited scientists in his field in 2021.