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Environmental Influences On Diel Calling Behavior In Baleen Whales

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Technical Report

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Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Woods Hole United States

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Baleen whales rely on acoustic communication to maintain contact with conspecifics for the purposes of social interactions, breeding, and possibly coordinated feeding activities. Passive acoustic monitoring takes advantage of this communication to detect whale presence. Unlike odontocetes that use echolocation to forage, calling in baleen whales is by no means obligatory therefore, the absence of call detections does not always imply an absence of whales. To effectively apply passive acoustic monitoring to research and mitigation problems, we require a much better understanding of the social and environmental factors that influence variability in the calling behavior of baleen whales. One of the most prevalent observations in passive acoustic recordings over scales of days to months is diel calling behavior i.e., higher calling rates by day versus night or vice versa Stafford et al. 2005, Wiggins et al. 2005, Baumgartner and Fratantoni 2008. Increased calling activity during particular times of the day is frequently hypothesized to be caused by diel vertical migration of prey, but few studies have directly studied this relationship because it is difficult to continuously observe acoustic behavior and environmental conditions e.g., prey migration in areas occupied by whales over time scales of days to weeks.

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