Estimated communication range and energetic cost of bottlenose dolphin whistles in a tropical habitat

Frants H. Jensen, Kristian Beedholm, Magnus Wahlberg, Lars Bejder, Peter T. Madsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Scopus citations


Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops sp.) depend on frequency-modulated whistles for many aspects of their social behavior, including group cohesion and recognition of familiar individuals. Vocalization amplitude and frequency influences communication range and may be shaped by many ecological and physiological factors including energetic costs. Here, a calibrated GPS-synchronized hydrophone array was used to record the whistles of bottlenose dolphins in a tropical shallow-water environment with high ambient noise levels. Acoustic localization techniques were used to estimate the source levels and energy content of individual whistles. Bottlenose dolphins produced whistles with mean source levels of 146.76.2 dB re. 1 Pa(RMS). These were lower than source levels estimated for a population inhabiting the quieter Moray Firth, indicating that dolphins do not necessarily compensate for the high noise levels found in noisy tropical habitats by increasing their source level. Combined with measured transmission loss and noise levels, these source levels provided estimated median communication ranges of 750 m and maximum communication ranges up to 5740 m. Whistles contained less than 17 mJ of acoustic energy, showing that the energetic cost of whistling is small compared to the high metabolic rate of these aquatic mammals, and unlikely to limit the vocal activity of toothed whales.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)582-592
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of the Acoustical Society of America
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2012
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Acoustics and Ultrasonics


Dive into the research topics of 'Estimated communication range and energetic cost of bottlenose dolphin whistles in a tropical habitat'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this