Sound is a wave, and waves need some sort of
matter to move through (the scientific term for
waves moving is "propagating"). Sound moves
through more than just air. If you've ever put
your ear on the wall or something solid, you know
that you can still hear things that come through.
Also, since waves need a medium (matter to move
through), you can probably figure out that in
space, there are no noises! Some films don't take
this into account, so next time you watch a film
based in space, see if you can spot whether or not
the director made sure to remember his science
So, now that we have some idea of what sound
needs to propagate, we can ask further: why is
this important? Why would humans and other animals
evolve to detect sound waves moving in the air?
There is no simple answer that is complete, so be
aware that there are lots of factors that have
influenced the way evolution has progressed. If we
think critically, though, we can come up with a
few good reasons why animals would find sound
First, think about hunting. In the wild, being
able to hear predators is essential for survival.
Eye sight also helps, but sound can travel through
small spaces and around corners very easily, so
detecting moving, breathing, or other sounds is
very useful. It is useful for both parties: the
hunter and the hunted. Imagine if you are alone in
a forest, and it's night time. Without your sense
of sound, it would be extremely difficult to
navigate or stay out of harms way.
Secondly, finding running water is much easier
when you can hear! Water is an essential element
of life. Human bodies are almost two-thirds water!
Without it, no animal would survive.
Lastly, communication. The first two examples
were very survival-based. But once our basic needs
are met, there are other advanced ways that
animals interact. Humans have developed spoken
language because we have the tools to send a
receive messages with waves! That's an incredible
feat, and a very useful skill. As we said before,
sound can travel very far, and it moves outward
from the point that created it. This lets animals
warn others of predators, or make them aware of
food or water in the area. This reason is by far
the most broad, since communication exists in so
many forms. From survival communication to social
communication, both have been integral in human
and animal development.
Thanks for the great question, I hope this
answer gets you thinking about the many ways sound
has influenced our planet!
Sound is biologically important because vibrations
carry energy and thus information over distance
reliably, which is otherwise difficult for living
systems to do (except for vision, of course, but
sensing light is if anything even harder than
sound, ironically enough). For this reason,
hearing and vibration sense are extremely
important senses for living organisms. Vision is
even more important for many animals, because
light is even more effective at transferring
information, despite being even harder to detect.
This is an interesting question. I think there are
many possible answers, because of how open-ended
you've left the question. For instance, sound is
important to humans and many other animals for
communication, as well as for awareness of
surroundings for safety.
Sound played an important role in the
historical development of languages as a means of
communication. There are some words that are as
old as 15,000 years old that are relatively
unchanged across many languages in the world! Here
is a link if you are interested:
Even for babies, sounds such as different kinds
of crying are necessary for communicating needs to
their caretakers. Furthermore, it is in those
first few years of a human's life that an
individual organizes different types of sounds in
their minds, not only in the way of words, but as
a way of expressing emotion through intonation. I
think a very explicit way we express emotion is
through music, but even apart from music, people
use inflection in their voices to convey feelings
of joy, anger, fear, contentment, etc.
Sound is also important for safety. Think about
reflexes people or animals have to very loud,
crashing noises. Sound is a tool that organisms
use to stay aware of their environment as a way to
improve their chances of survival.
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