MEPS 489:279-295 (2013)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps10426

Minke whale acoustic behavior and multi-year seasonal and diel vocalization patterns in Massachusetts Bay, USA

Denise Risch1,*, Christopher W. Clark2, Peter J. Dugan2, Marian Popescu2, Ursula Siebert3, Sofie M. Van Parijs4

1Integrated Statistics, Woods Hole, Massachusetts, USA
2Bioacoustics Research Program, Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA
3Institute for Terrestrial and Aquatic Wildlife Research, University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Büsum, Germany
4Northeast Fisheries Science Center, Woods Hole, Massachusetts, USA

ABSTRACT: Passive acoustic monitoring (PAM) is a rapidly growing field, providing valuable insights in marine ecology. The approach allows for long-term, species-specific monitoring over a range of spatial scales. For many baleen whales fundamental information on seasonal occurrence and distribution is still missing. In this study, pulse trains produced by the North Atlantic minke whale, a highly mobile and cryptic species, are used to examine its seasonality, diel vocalization patterns and spatial distribution throughout the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary (SBNMS), USA. Three and a half years (2006, 2007 to 2010) of near continuous passive acoustic data were analyzed using automated detection methods. Random forests and cluster analyses grouped pulse trains into 3 main categories (slow-down, constant and speed-up), with several sub-types. Slow-down pulse trains were the most commonly recorded call category. Minke whale pulse train occurrence was highly seasonal across all years. Detections were made from August to November, with 88% occurring in September and October. No detections were recorded in January and February, and only few from March to June. Minke whale pulse trains showed a distinct diel pattern, with a nighttime peak from approximately 20:00 to 01:00 h Eastern Standard Time (EST). The highest numbers of pulse trains were detected to the east of Stellwagen Bank, suggesting that minke whales travel preferably in deeper waters along the outer edge of the sanctuary. These data show that minke whales consistently use Stellwagen Bank as part of their migration route to and from the feeding grounds. Unlike other baleen whales in this area they do not appear to have a persistent year-round acoustic presence.


KEY WORDS: Minke whale · Balaenoptera acutorostrata · Vocalizations · Pulse train · Seasonality · Diel variation · Passive acoustic monitoring


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Cite this article as: Risch D, Clark CW, Dugan PJ, Popescu M, Siebert U, Van Parijs SM (2013) Minke whale acoustic behavior and multi-year seasonal and diel vocalization patterns in Massachusetts Bay, USA. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 489:279-295. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps10426

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