Vocal power and pressure-flow relationships in excised tiger larynges

Ingo R. Titze, W. Tecumseh Fitch, Eric J. Hunter, Fariborz Alipour, Douglas Montequin, Douglas L. Armstrong, Jo Ann McGee, Edward J. Walsh

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    27 Scopus citations


    Despite the functional importance of loud, low-pitched vocalizations in big cats of the genus Panthera, little is known about the physics and physiology of the mechanisms producing such calls. We investigated laryngeal sound production in the laboratory using an excised-larynx setup combined with sound-level measurements and pressure-flow instrumentation. The larynges of five tigers (three Siberian or Amur, one generic non-pedigreed tiger with Bengal ancestry and one Sumatran), which had died of natural causes, were provided by Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo over a five-year period. Anatomical investigation indicated the presence of both a rigid cartilaginous plate in the arytenoid portion of the glottis, and a vocal fold fused with a ventricular fold. Both of these features have been confusingly termed 'vocal pads' in the previous literature. We successfully induced phonation in all of these larynges. Our results showed that aerodynamic power in the glottis was of the order of 1.0?W for all specimens, acoustic power radiated (without a vocal tract) was of the order of 0.1?mW, and fundamental frequency ranged between 20 and 100?Hz when a lung pressure in the range of 0-2.0?kPa was applied. The mean glottal airflow increased to the order of 1.0?l?s-1 per 1.0?kPa of pressure, which is predictable from scaling human and canine larynges by glottal length and vibrational amplitude. Phonation threshold pressure was remarkably low, on the order of 0.3?kPa, which is lower than for human and canine larynges phonated without a vocal tract. Our results indicate that a vocal fold length approximately three times greater than that of humans is predictive of the low fundamental frequency, and the extraordinarily flat and broad medial surface of the vocal folds is predictive of the low phonation threshold pressure.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)3866-3873
    Number of pages8
    JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
    Issue number22
    StatePublished - Nov 2010


    • Animal phonation
    • Glottal efficiency
    • Vocal power

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
    • Physiology
    • Aquatic Science
    • Animal Science and Zoology
    • Molecular Biology
    • Insect Science


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