Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Blue Whales And Their Calls: Scientists Listen To Earth's Largest Mammals

Date:
February 28, 2007
Source:
Scripps Institution of Oceanography / University of California - San Diego
Summary:
Using a variety of new approaches, scientists at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego are forging a new understanding of the largest mammals on Earth.

Scientists prepare to attach a 'B-probe' electronic data-logging tag to a blue whale. (Credit: John Calambokidis)
Credit: John Calambokidis

Using a variety of new approaches, scientists at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego are forging a new understanding of the largest mammals on Earth.

In one recently published study on blue whales, Scripps researchers used a combination of techniques to show for the first time that blue whale calls can be tied to specific behavior and gender classifications. In a separate study, researchers used recordings of blue whale songs to determine the animal's population distributions worldwide.

While the specific function of songs and calls produced by whales remains a mystery to a large degree, the sounds are thought to mediate social interactions between the animals.

The first study, led by Scripps postdoctoral researcher Erin Oleson and Scripps scientist John Hildebrand, describes the behavioral context of calls produced by eastern North Pacific blue whales. Few researchers have attempted to link sound production with specific behaviors or environmental conditions to attempt to determine the significance of whale calls.

"This is the first study that has been able to study the calls by directly observing the animal while it is calling and gathering key information such as depth and body orientation—getting a sense of what the animal is doing underwater," said Oleson. "Once you understand the context of specific types of sounds, then you can use those sounds to infer something about what they are doing when you are not there to actually see them doing it."

Using a blend of approaches that included attaching miniature acoustic recording tags to whales, Oleson and her colleagues were able to find clear patterns tied to whale behavior, sex type and group size with specific call types. The tags included the National Geographic "Crittercam," an integrated video-camcorder and data-logging system, and the "B-probe," an electronic data-logging tag attached to the animal via suction cup. Those data were supplemented with analysis of whale tissue samples and visual observations from ships.

The researchers found that only males produced sounds known as "AB" calls while "D" calls were heard from both sexes, typically during foraging. The researchers note in the paper, published in the January 25 issue of the Marine Ecology Progress Series journal, that the sex bias evident in AB callers suggests that those calls probably play a role in reproduction.

Oleson hopes such call and behavior information will eventually be used for better understanding whale habitats and calculating species abundances.

The second study, published in a recent issue of the Journal of Cetacean Research Management, describes the first attempt at determining worldwide blue whale populations by analyzing nuances of their songs.

Hildebrand and his colleagues used acoustic recordings from around the world, including data from his own instrument deployments and recordings from other scientists and the U.S. Navy, to create a new map that geographically categorizes blue whale species types into nine regions around the world based on their song "dialects."

While certain regional designations are concentrated in areas close to one coastal area, such as the map's "type 1" classification primarily off the North American coast, others, such as "type 4," are spread over broad areas, in this case throughout the Northern Pacific Ocean.

The blue whale saw its numbers dwindle dangerously before whaling moratoria were enacted. Now the new study may become a tool for representing its true population stocks. The paper suggests that the stock structures of blue whales, traditionally based on International Whaling Commission boundaries, should instead be reconstructed based on song, which would more accurately represent their true population distributions.

"By listening to the animals, you can tell something about the areas in which they are interacting to breed and that's important to know for managing and conserving the animals," said Hildebrand, who coauthored the paper with Mark McDonald of Whale Acoustics and Sarah Mesnick of the Southwest Fisheries Science Center, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Coauthors of Oleson's study, in addition to Hildebrand and McDonald, include John Calambokidis of the Cascadia Research Collective, William Burgess of Greeneridge Sciences and Carrie LeDuc of the Southwest Fisheries Science Center.

The studies were supported by the U.S. Navy's Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program, the Chief of Naval Operations, the Office of Naval Research, the National Science Foundation Office of Polar Programs, the Southwest Fisheries Science Center, the Tagging of Pacific Pelagics Program and the Center for Integrated Marine Technology at UC Santa Cruz.

To learn more about whales and their calls, visit http://voicesinthesea.org


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Scripps Institution of Oceanography / University of California - San Diego. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Scripps Institution of Oceanography / University of California - San Diego. "Blue Whales And Their Calls: Scientists Listen To Earth's Largest Mammals." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 February 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/02/070227170949.htm>.
Scripps Institution of Oceanography / University of California - San Diego. (2007, February 28). Blue Whales And Their Calls: Scientists Listen To Earth's Largest Mammals. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/02/070227170949.htm
Scripps Institution of Oceanography / University of California - San Diego. "Blue Whales And Their Calls: Scientists Listen To Earth's Largest Mammals." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/02/070227170949.htm (accessed October 23, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Working Mother DIY: Pumpkin Pom-Pom

Working Mother DIY: Pumpkin Pom-Pom

Working Mother (Oct. 22, 2014) How to make a pumpkin pom-pom. Video provided by Working Mother
Powered by NewsLook.com
Goofy Dinosaur Blends Barney and Jar Jar Binks

Goofy Dinosaur Blends Barney and Jar Jar Binks

AP (Oct. 22, 2014) A collection of dinosaur bones reveal a creature that is far more weird and goofy-looking than scientists originally thought when they found just the arm bones nearly 50 years ago, according to a new report in the journal Nature. (Oct. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
San Diego Zoo's White Rhinos Provide Hope for the Critically Endangered Species

San Diego Zoo's White Rhinos Provide Hope for the Critically Endangered Species

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Oct. 22, 2014) The pair of rare white northern rhinos bring hope for their species as only six remain in the world. Elly Park reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Bear Cub Strolls Through Oregon Drug Store

Raw: Bear Cub Strolls Through Oregon Drug Store

AP (Oct. 22, 2014) Shoppers at an Oregon drug store were surprised by a bear cub scurrying down the aisles this past weekend. (Oct. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins