Caller identification and characterization of individual humpback whale acoustic behaviour

Julia M. Zeh, Valeria Perez-Marrufo, Dana L. Adcock, Frants H. Jensen, Kaitlyn J. Knapp, Jooke Robbins, Jennifer E. Tackaberry, Mason Weinrich, Ari S. Friedlaender, David N. Wiley, Susan E. Parks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Acoustic recording tags provide fine-scale data linking acoustic signalling with individual behaviour; however, when an animal is in a group, it is challenging to tease apart calls of conspecifics and identify which individuals produce each call. This, in turn, prohibits a robust assessment of individual acoustic behaviour including call rates and silent periods, call bout production within and between individuals, and caller location. To overcome this challenge, we simultaneously instrumented small groups of humpback whales on a western North Atlantic feeding ground with sound and movement recording tags. This approach enabled a comparison of the relative amplitude of each call across individuals to infer caller identity for 97% of calls. We recorded variable call rates across individuals (mean = 23 calls/h) and groups (mean = 55 calls/h). Calls were produced throughout dives, and most calls were produced in bouts with short inter-call intervals of 2.2 s. Most calls received a likely response from a conspecific within 100 s. This caller identification (ID) method facilitates studying both individual-and group-level acoustic behaviour, yielding novel results about the nature of sequence production and vocal exchanges in humpback whale social calls. Future studies can expand on these caller ID methods for understanding intra-group communication across taxa.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number231608
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 13 2024


  • biologging
  • bouts
  • call rate
  • caller ID
  • tags
  • vocal exchange

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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