ESR 30:157-169 (2016)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/esr00735

Calls of North Atlantic right whales Eubalaena glacialis contain information on individual identity and age class

Jessica A. McCordic*, Holly Root-Gutteridge, Dana A. Cusano, Samuel L. Denes, Susan E. Parks

Department of Biology, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY 13244, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Passive acoustic monitoring is a powerful tool that allows remote detection of marine mammals through their vocalizations. While call detection provides information on species presence, additional information may be contained within the vocalizations that could provide more information regarding the demographics and/or number of individuals in a particular area based on passive acoustic detections. The North Atlantic right whale Eubalaena glacialis produces a stereotyped upswept call, termed the upcall, that is thought to function as a long-distance contact call in this species. As such, the call is likely to contain cues providing information about the individual producing it. The goal of this study was to test whether the right whale upcall could potentially encode information related to the identity and age of the caller. Using upcalls recorded from 14 known individuals through non-invasive suction cup archival acoustic tags, we demonstrate that the upcall does contain sufficient information to discriminate individual identity and age class, with average classification levels of 72.6 and 86.1%, respectively. Parameters measured from the fundamental frequency, duration, and formant structure were most important for discrimination among individuals. This study is the first step in demonstrating the feasibility of obtaining additional data from passive acoustic monitoring to aid in the conservation efforts for this highly endangered species.


KEY WORDS: Right whale · Acoustic communication · Vocal signature · Individual recognition · Passive acoustic monitoring · Formants


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Cite this article as: McCordic JA, Root-Gutteridge H, Cusano DA, Denes SL, Parks SE (2016) Calls of North Atlantic right whales Eubalaena glacialis contain information on individual identity and age class. Endang Species Res 30:157-169. https://doi.org/10.3354/esr00735

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