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Cryptic vocal behavior of foraging humpback whales on feeding grounds in West Greenland

Videsen, S.K.A., Simon, M., Johnson, M., Madsen, P.T. and Christiansen, F. (2021) Cryptic vocal behavior of foraging humpback whales on feeding grounds in West Greenland. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 150 (4). pp. 2879-2887.

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Male humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) sing in mating aggregations in the form of song displays, but much less is known about how both sexes use sound on their feeding grounds. Here, we test different hypotheses about the function of vocalizations in 14 foraging humpback whales tagged with sound and movement recording Dtags in Greenland. We show that this population of foraging humpback whales have an overall low call rate of 11.9 calls h−1 (inter-quartile range = 12.1) with no support for the hypotheses that they employ sound in the localization or manipulation of prey nor in the coordination of lunge feeding. The calls had a mean received level of 135 ± 5dB re 1 μPa, which is some 30 dB lower than maximum levels of song recorded on similar deployed tags, suggesting a much smaller active space of these vocalizations. This reduced active space might, in concert with low call rates, serve to mitigate eavesdropping by predatory killer whales or conspecifics competing for the same prey resources. We conclude that feeding humpback whales in Greenland produce low level, infrequent calls suggesting that calling is not a prerequisite for successful feeding, but likely serves to mediate within group social interactions

Item Type: Journal Article
Publisher: Acoustical Society of America
Copyright: © 2021 Acoustical Society of America.
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