Think of a thunderdrum from the How To Train Your Dragon movies for its large mouth, but it has a wingless centaur shaped body. It has a large head that can open its mouth wide. How would it create a concussive force with its mouth? I had planned for this creature to be on land, but how it might work for underwater would be useful too. I remember at Sci-port there was this drum that if you hit it it would make these stringed cds hanging from the ceiling move from the soundwaves. Maybe it uses a similar method but more powerful.

I imagine it chasing a group of animals and using the sound force to herd them at some point in it developing a civilization.

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    $\begingroup$ Could you clarify — does this animal have to be an air-breather? If underwater, damagingly percussive soundwaves are definitely a thing. Consider the mantis shrimp. $\endgroup$ Dec 27, 2019 at 21:17

2 Answers 2


Real Life Examples

In WW2 the Nazis experimented with a sonic weapon that used pulse-jet style detonation chambers and resonance to create extremeley loud soundwaves. If two of these units were set up and focused on an overlapping point the sound compression waves generated could, if given enough exposure, kill. That is, if you managed to get anybody to hang out in a very specific area right in between two of them for about 30 minutes. Also each was about the size of a house. Pretty much totally useless as weapons.

In the late 50's a plane was built by the US government, the XF-84 Thunderscreech. It posessed a super-sonic prop, which when turning at full speed produced a rippling series of sonic booms from the tips of each propeller. The resonance in certain hangar structures or nearby aircraft caused damage to them. There are even reports of personel working in enclosed spaces with it suffering detached retinas and siezures.

Problems with this as a biological process

In our atmosphere sound has a top speed due to the ability of our atmosphere to conduct sound waves. In our atmosphere sound travels at about 343 meters per second, dependant upon altitude, humidity, and temperature. This means no sound on earth, at sea level, can exceed about 194 decibels. To produce this sound you must generate compression waves by rapidly oscillating between a vacume and +2 atmospheres of pressurization. No small feat. To give you an idea of just how loud that is and how difficult it is to hit the maximum decibel level, When Krakatoa erupted and was heard around that hemisphere, it was "only" 172 decibels.

Also, "sound" doesn't push things. Waves of compressed air do, the sound is just a byproduct. So your critters dont have to be loud, they need to be able to compress air and direct it at a target. We're at this point more talking about generating explosions rather than sound. I do not feasibly see a living creature under currently accepted theories of biology being capable of doing this naturally. The kinds of forces required are going to be harful or lethal to anybody/thing immiediatley nearby not to mention the creature emitting them, thus not likley biologically generated in origin. Anything generating forces like that is going to be exposed to them too.


I do not believe there is a realistically feasible method to achieve these kinds of forces biologically. Sound can be used in other ways, like to irritate a target and convince it to move, but not to generate the kinds of forces you are looking for without also causing an equal (but probably greater) amount of damage to the creature generating them.

Doesn't mean its not feasible

Instead of physically shoving them with compression waves, your creatures use the sound they generate to modify herd animal behavior. Lets say they can emit a very loud, very well focused "beam" of sound. There are riot control devices made by a company called LRAD that produce extremeley loud, very tightly focused sound beams, (up to 30° beams.) These can cause anything from nausea to irritating pain in rioters ears, and can be aimed at individuals if close enough.

Typically, it is so loud, and uncomfortable, the targeted person or persons will attempt to move away from the source of the sound produced by this device. I'd say that maybe your creatures can use this to aim the sound admitted towards one side of the animal, causing it to instinctivley move away from it in a more desired direction. In this manner they manage to herd thier animals in desired directions of travel.


The way the Thunderdrum was animated made it seem like it could open its mouth and the air would instantly ripple outwards just because of how loud the dragon was, but that is probably not an accurate portrayal of real-life biology considering how skinny and short in length the Thumderdrum is. However, to produce sound waves with such power, you would need to be able to compress the air enough to make it move at the speed of sound without damaging the organism's internal organs. This concept would probably be best represented by aquatic animals such as the mantis shrimp as mentioned above, and some whales such as the blue whale or sperm whale.

  • $\begingroup$ so like, a reaaaallly long blue/sperm whale? $\endgroup$ Dec 28, 2019 at 22:35
  • $\begingroup$ And really wide/round, I'm assuming. $\endgroup$ Dec 28, 2019 at 22:37

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