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Acoustic Scattering of Broadband Echolocation Signals from Prey of Blainville's Beaked Whales: Modeling and Analysis

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Master's thesis

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Blainvilles beaked whales Mesoplodon densirostris use broadband, ultrasonic echolocation signals 27 to 57 kHz to search for, localize, and approach prey that generally consist of mid-water and deep-water shes and squid. Although it is well knownthat the spectral characteristics of broadband echoes from marine organisms are a strong function of size, shape, orientation and anatomical group, little is known as to whether or not these or other toothed whales use spectral cues in discriminating between prey and non-prey. In order to study the prey-classification process, a stereo acoustic tag was mounted on a Blainvilles beaked whale so that emitted clicks and corresponding echoes from prey could be recorded. A comparison of echoes from prey selected by the whale and those from randomly chosen scatterers suggests that the whale may have, indeed, discriminated between echoes using spectral features and target strengths. Specifically, the whale appears to have favored prey with one or more deep nulls in the echo spectra as well as ones with higher target strength. A three-dimensional, acoustic scattering model is also developed to simulate broadband scattering from squid, a likely prey of the beaked whale. This model applies the distorted wave Born approximation DWBA to a weakly-scattering, inhomogeneous body using a combined ray trace and volume integration approach. Scatterer features are represented with volume elements that are small less than 112th of the wavelength for the frequency range of interest 0 to 120 kHz. Ranges of validity with respect to material properties and numerical considerations are explored using benchmark computations with simpler geometries such as fluid-filled spherical and cylindrical fluid shells. Modeling predictions are compared with published data from live, freely swimming squid. These results, as well as previously published studies, are used in the analysis of the echo spectra of the whales ensonified targets.

Subject Categories:

  • Biology
  • Ecology
  • Biological Oceanography
  • Acoustics

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