Bertel Møhl

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Bertel Møhl
Born(1936-01-02)2 January 1936
Copenhagen, Denmark
Died13 September 2017(2017-09-13) (aged 81)
Hundested, Denmark
Resting placeRamløse
Alma materUniversity of Copenhagen
ChildrenThree sons
Scientific career
Thesis (1965)
Doctoral advisorTorkel Weis-Fogh

Bertel Møhl (2 January 1936 – 13 September 2017) was a Danish marine zoologist and physiologist. He contributed significantly to the understanding of auditory physiology and bioacoustics of bats and marine mammals.

Bertel Møhl was born in Copenhagen in 1936, as oldest son of paleozoologist and taxidermist Ulrik Møhl and potter Felix Møhl (born Elka Lütken Petersen). He studied zoology at University of Copenhagen and graduated in 1965 (Mag.Scient.), worked first at the NATO funded Porpoise Research station in Strib, Denmark,[1] then as postdoctoral fellow with professor Keith Ronald at University of Guelph and finally as associate professor in sensory physiology at Aarhus University, where he remained until his retirement in 2007.

His early work dealt with anatomy and physiology of hearing in true seals, which included the first description of the soft tissue anatomy of the pinniped middle ear,[2] the first audiogram of a pinniped[3] and studies of the electrophysiology of the seal cochlea.[4]

Together with Ken Norris he published a seminal paper in 1983 on the so-called acoustic big-bang theory, in which it was proposed that toothed whales might be able to generate sounds loud enough to incapacitate or even kill their prey.[5] Although the theory is no longer consistent with experimental data, the paper itself served as a significant inspiration for studies in odontocete bioacoustics and in the experimental approach to testing the hypothesis a number of significant findings were made, including the loudest sound pressures ever measured from any animal (from sperm whales);[6] the first odontocete feeding sounds recorded in the wild (narwhals);[7] first experimental evidence for the sound transmission pathway in the sperm whale nose;[8] and the hyperdirectionality of the sperm whale echolocation sound beam.[9]

In the 1970s and 1980s Bertel Møhl concurrently studied biosonar in bats. He was particularly interested in the nature of the detection process and through a series of experiments provided substantial evidence against the at the time dominant theory of coherent signal processing by the bat auditory system.[10][11]



  1. ^ Andersen, Søren H. (2009). "Invenstigations of the harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) in Denmark from 1962 to 1983". Aquatic Mammals. 35 (3): 395–398. doi:10.1578/AM.35.3.2009.394.
  2. ^ Møhl, Bertel (1967). "Seal Ears". Science. 157 (3784): 99. Bibcode:1967Sci...157...99M. doi:10.1126/science.157.3784.99. PMID 17838155.
  3. ^ Møhl, Bertel (1968). "Auditory sensitivity of the common seal in air and water". J. Aud. Res. 8: 27–38.
  4. ^ Møhl, Bertel; Ronald, Keith (1975). "The peripheral auditory system of the harp seal, Pagophilus groenlandicus (Erxleben, 1777)". Rapp.P.-v.Ré 169: 516–523.
  5. ^ Norris, Kenneth S.; Møhl, Bertel (1983). "Can odontocetes debilitate prey with sound?". American Naturalist. 122: 85–104. doi:10.1086/284120.
  6. ^ Møhl, B.; Wahlberg, M.; Madesen, P.T.; Miller, L.A.; Surlykke, A. (2000). "Sperm whale clicks: directionality and source levels revisited". Journal of the Acoustical Society of America. 107 (1): 638–648. Bibcode:2000ASAJ..107..638M. doi:10.1121/1.428329. PMID 10641672. S2CID 9610645.
  7. ^ Miller, L.A.; Pristed, J.; Møhl, B.; Surlykke, A. (1995). "The Click-Sounds of Narwhals (Monodon monoceros) in Inglefield Bay, Northwest Greenland". Marine Mammal Science. 11 (4): 491–502. doi:10.1111/j.1748-7692.1995.tb00672.x.
  8. ^ Møhl, B. (2001). "Sound transmission in the nose of the sperm whale Physeter catodon. A post mortem study". Journal of Comparative Physiology A. 187 (5): 335–340. doi:10.1007/s003590100205. PMID 11529477.
  9. ^ Møhl, B.; Wahlberg, M.; Madsen, P.T.; Heerfordt, A.; Lund, A. (2003). "The monopulsed nature of sperm whale clicks". Journal of the Acoustical Society of America. 114 (2): 1143–1154. Bibcode:2003ASAJ..114.1143M. doi:10.1121/1.1586258. PMID 12942991. S2CID 13667717.
  10. ^ Møhl, Bertel (1986). "Detection by a pipistrelle bat of normal and reversed replica of its sonar pulses". Acustica. 61: 75–82.
  11. ^ Troest, Niels; Møhl, Bertel (1986). "The detection of phantom targets in noise by serotine bats; negative evidence for the coherent receiver". Journal of Comparative Physiology A. 159 (4): 559–567. doi:10.1007/BF00604175. PMID 3783503.