Marine biologists have come up with an obscure mathematical trick which they claim transforms songs of whales into strikingly beautiful patterns.

Whales and dolphins are accomplished vocalists, emitting complex patterns of clicks and whistles that vary in pitch, volume and length. To visualise their songs, scientists usually produce a spectrogram, a graph of how the frequency of their vocalisations varies over time.

Now, an international team, led by Mark Fischer, has developed another way to illustrate whale song.

The biologists use a more obscure method, known as the wavelet transform, which represents the sound in terms of components known as wavelets: short, discrete waves better at capturing cetacean song, the New Scientist reported.

As well as illustrating more characteristics of the sound, the team has taken advantage of the striking look of its graphs, selling them as art through their company Aguasonic Acoustics, based in San Francisco.

The team has been approached by the U.S. navy, which is interested in using his technique to identify whales off the coast of the Bahamas and southern California. Some species are panicked by the sonar waves that naval vessels emit, so the U.S. Navy needs an easy way to identify which creatures are nearby.