Alligator’s voice can change by inhaling Helium

Alligator’s voice can change by inhaling Helium


Did you know that when Alligators breathe Helium, their voices change? This change occurs just like in humans, due to inhaling helium.

Takeshi Nishimura, an associate professor at Kyoto University’s Primate Research Institute, along with his team,  answered this bizarre question and won the 2020 Ig Nobel Acoustics Prize.

Their research revealed that alligators, like humans, change their voices when they inhale helium gas. This study started with a sense of fun and led to fascinating discoveries about animal communication.

When we inhale helium, our voices become high-pitched and squeaky because helium is lighter than air, causing sound waves to travel faster.

This same principle applies to alligators, which was a surprising and amusing discovery.

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This is an image of real experiments conducted on an alligator.( Science Technology Innovation Japan)

The Research Process

The team needed to get an alligator to inhale helium gas, which isn’t as simple as asking it to breathe in! They observed that alligators take deep breaths when they peek out of the water. Using this behavior, they filled a tank with water and heliox gas (a mix of helium and oxygen).

Fill the sealed tank with water and displace the ambient air with heliox gas, a mixture of helium and oxygen adjusted to match air’s oxygen concentration. When the alligator surfaces and takes a deep breath, it inhales a significant amount of helium gas along with oxygen into its lungs.

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How fill helium gases into alligator’s tank to do the research and how it happened. (Science Technology Innovation Japan)

When the alligator surfaced for air, it inhaled the helium mixture, allowing the researchers to record its vocalizations.

Results and Discoveries

The experiment revealed a strange fact. An alligator’s voice changes when it inhales helium, just like humans.

The recorded voices were hoarse and burp-like, making analysis challenging. However, through manual analysis, the team confirmed that alligators use resonance to vocalize.

This discovery shows that alligators communicate using principles similar to those of birds and mammals.

The Ig Nobel Prize celebrates unconventional research that sparks laughter and thought. The 2020 Acoustics Prize-winning study on alligator vocalization with helium gas is a perfect example.

This research not only revealed weird and fascinating facts but also contributed to our understanding of animal communication and evolution.


Featured image credit: vecteezy/ Science Japan


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