Inter-Research > ESR > v43 > p475-494  
ESR
Endangered Species Research

via Mailchimp

ESR 43:475-494 (2020)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/esr01089

Clicking throughout the year: sperm whale clicks in relation to environmental conditions off the west coast of South Africa

Fannie W. Shabangu1,2,*, Rex K. Andrew3

1Fisheries Management Branch, Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Foreshore, Cape Town 8018, South Africa
2Mammal Research Institute Whale Unit, University of Pretoria, Private Bag X20, Hatfield, Pretoria 0028, South Africa
3Applied Physics Laboratory, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98105, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Knowledge of cetacean occurrence and behaviour in southern African waters is limited, and passive acoustic monitoring has the potential to address this gap efficiently. Seasonal acoustic occurrence and diel-vocalizing patterns of sperm whales in relation to environmental conditions are described here using passive acoustic monitoring data collected off the west coast of South Africa. Four autonomous acoustic recorders (AARs) were deployed on 3 oceanographic moorings from July 2014 to January 2017. Sperm whale clicks were detected year round in most recording sites, with peaks in acoustic occurrence in summer and late winter through spring. Diel-vocalizing patterns were detected in winter, spring and summer. Higher percentages of sperm whale clicks were recorded by AARs deployed at 1100 m water depth compared to those concurrently deployed at 850 and 4500 m, likely inferring that the whales exhibited some preference to water depths around 1100 m. Acoustic propagation modelling suggested a maximum detection range of 83 km in winter for sperm whale clicks produced at 1100 m. Random forest models classified daylight regime, sea surface height anomaly and month of the year as the most important predictors of sperm whale acoustic occurrence. The continuous acoustic occurrence of sperm whales suggests that the study area supports large biomasses of prey to sustain this species’ food requirements year round. This is the first study to describe the seasonal acoustic occurrence and diel-vocalizing patterns of sperm whales off the west coast of South Africa, extending knowledge of the species previously available only through whaling records.


KEY WORDS: Sperm whales · Acoustic occurrence · Passive acoustic monitoring · Diel behaviour · Detection ranges · Environmental conditions · Random forest model · South Africa


Full text in pdf format 
Cite this article as: Shabangu FW, Andrew RK (2020) Clicking throughout the year: sperm whale clicks in relation to environmental conditions off the west coast of South Africa. Endang Species Res 43:475-494. https://doi.org/10.3354/esr01089

Export citation
Mail this link - Contents Mailing Lists - RSS
Facebook - - linkedIn