Lions and tigers make fearsome roars because they have unusual vocal cords, a new study has revealed.
The researchers found that the big cats’ vocal cords have an odd square shape and can withstand strong stretching and shearing.
That shape “makes it easier for the tissue to respond to the passing airflow,” allowing louder roars at lower lung pressure, said University of Utah researcher Tobias Riede, one of the researchers involved in the project.
These findings contradict a theory that lions roar deeply because the vocal folds are heavy with fat.
Instead, the researchers speculate that the fat gives the vocal folds their square shape (as opposed to the more traditional triangular vocal folds found in most species), and may cushion the vocal folds and provide repair material when they are damaged.
“If you understand how vocal folds are structured and what effects that structure has on vocal production, then it could help doctors make decisions on how to reconstruct damaged vocal fold tissue” in people such as cancer patients, singers, teachers, coaches and drill sergeants, Riede stated.
The findings have been published in the Nov. 2 issue of the online journal PLoS ONE.