Preferred shallow-water nursery sites provide acoustic crypsis to southern right whale mother-calf pairs

Julia M. Zeh, Julia R.G. Dombroski, Susan E. Parks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Adaptations to sound production behaviour can reduce the detectability of animal signals by eavesdroppers in a phenomenon known as acoustic crypsis. We propose that acoustic crypsis can include selection of locations that affect how sound transmits through the environment: habitats with poor acoustic propagation can minimize the range of detectability of animal signals. We investigated the potential for the preferred habitats of southern right whales to confer acoustic crypsis. We modelled acoustic propagation and range of detection of calls from southern right whales in the shallow, sandy, near shore waters where mothers and calves aggregate during the calving season. At three nursery sites across three continents in the southern hemisphere, results showed that the depth at which right whales are most commonly sighted has the most limited acoustic detection range for their calls. Thus, these habitats allow mother calf pairs to remain acoustically cryptic from potential eavesdroppers, both predators and conspecifics, when their calves are the most vulnerable. Our results provide preliminary evidence that, in addition to other behavioural strategies, the use of habitats with poor acoustic propagation can contribute to acoustic crypsis. This adaptation may be a widespread and underappreciated mechanism for avoidance of eavesdroppers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number220241
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2022


  • Acoustic crypsis
  • Baleen whale behavior
  • Calving habitat
  • Eavesdropping
  • Predator avoidance
  • Sound propagation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


Dive into the research topics of 'Preferred shallow-water nursery sites provide acoustic crypsis to southern right whale mother-calf pairs'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this