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Short- and long-term changes in right whale calling behavior: The potential effects of noise on acoustic communication

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Author(s)

Susan E. Parks, C. W. Clark, P. L. Tyack

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Abstract

The impact of anthropogenic noise on marine mammals has been an area of increasing concern over the past two decades. Most low-frequency anthropogenic noise in the ocean comes from commercial shipping which has contributed to an increase in ocean background noise over the past 150 years. The long-term impacts of these changes on marine mammals are not well understood. This paper describes both short- and long-term behavioral changes in calls produced by the endangered North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis) and South Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena australis) in the presence of increased low-frequency noise. Right whales produce calls with a higher average fundamental frequency and they call at a lower rate in high noise conditions, possibly in response to masking from low-frequency noise. The long-term changes have occurred within the known lifespan of individual whales, indicating that a behavioral change, rather than selective pressure, has resulted in the observed differences. This study provides evidence of a behavioral change in sound production of right whales that is correlated with increased noise levels and indicates that right whales may shift call frequency to compensate for increased band-limited background noise. (c) 2007 Acoustical Society of America.

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3725-3731
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of the Acoustical Society of America
Volume122
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2007

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ID: 20035442