Short- and long-term changes in right whale calling behavior: The potential effects of noise on acoustic communication

Susan E. Parks, C. W. Clark, P. L. Tyack

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

144 Scopus citations


The impact of anthropogenic noise on marine mammals has been an area of increasing concern over the past two decades. Most low-frequency anthropogenic noise in the ocean comes from commercial shipping which has contributed to an increase in ocean background noise over the past 150 years. The long-term impacts of these changes on marine mammals are not well understood. This paper describes both short- and long-term behavioral changes in calls produced by the endangered North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis) and South Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena australis) in the presence of increased low-frequency noise. Right whales produce calls with a higher average fundamental frequency and they call at a lower rate in high noise conditions, possibly in response to masking from low-frequency noise. The long-term changes have occurred within the known lifespan of individual whales, indicating that a behavioral change, rather than selective pressure, has resulted in the observed differences. This study provides evidence of a behavioral change in sound production of right whales that is correlated with increased noise levels and indicates that right whales may shift call frequency to compensate for increased band-limited background noise.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3725-3731
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of the Acoustical Society of America
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2007
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Acoustics and Ultrasonics

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