Remote acoustic monitoring of North Atlantic right whales (Eubalaena glacialis) reveals seasonal and diel variations in acoustic behavior

Leanna P. Matthews, Jessica A. McCordic, Susan E. Parks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

13 Scopus citations

Abstract

Remote acoustic monitoring is a non-invasive tool that can be used to study the distribution, behavior, and habitat use of sound-producing species. The North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis) is an endangered baleen whale species that produces a variety of stereotyped acoustic signals. One of these signals, the "gunshot" sound, has only been recorded from adult male North Atlantic right whales and is thought to function for reproduction, either as reproductive advertisement for females or as an agonistic signal toward other males. This study uses remote acoustic monitoring to analyze the presence of gunshots over a two-year period at two sites on the Scotian Shelf to determine if there is evidence that North Atlantic right whales may use these locations for breeding activities. Seasonal analyses at both locations indicate that gunshot sound production is highly seasonal, with an increase in the autumn. One site, Roseway West, had significantly more gunshot sounds overall and exhibited a clear diel trend in production of these signals at night. The other site, Emerald South, also showed a seasonal increase in gunshot production during the autumn, but did not show any significant diel trend. This difference in gunshot signal production at the two sites indicates variation either in the number or the behavior of whales at each location. The timing of the observed seasonal increase in gunshot sound production is consistent with the current understanding of the right whale breeding season, and our results demonstrate that detection of gunshots with remote acoustic monitoring can be a reliable way to track shifts in distribution and changes in acoustic behavior including possible mating activities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere91367
JournalPloS one
Volume9
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 19 2014

    Fingerprint

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General

Cite this