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Sperm whale codas may encode individuality as well as clan identity

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Cláudia Oliveira, Magnus Wahlberg, Mónica A. Silva, Mark Johnson, Ricardo Antunes, Danuta M. Wisniewska, Andrea Fais, João Gonçalves, Peter T. Madsen

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Abstract

Sperm whales produce codas for communication that can be grouped into different types according to their temporal patterns. Codas have led researchers to propose that sperm whales belong to distinct cultural clans, but it is presently unclear if they also convey individual information. Coda clicks comprise a series of pulses and the delay between pulses is a function of organ size, and therefore body size, and so is one potential source of individual information. Another potential individual-specific parameter could be the inter-click intervals within codas. To test whether these parameters provide reliable individual cues, stereo-hydrophone acoustic tags (Dtags) were attached to five sperm whales of the Azores, recording a total of 802 codas. A discriminant function analysis was used to distinguish 288 5 Regular codas from four of the sperm whales and 183 3 Regular codas from two sperm whales. The results suggest that codas have consistent individual features in their inter-click intervals and inter-pulse intervals which may contribute to individual identification. Additionally, two whales produced different coda types in distinct foraging dive phases. Codas may therefore be used by sperm whales to convey information of identity as well as activity within a social group to a larger extent than previously assumed.

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2860-2869
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the Acoustical Society of America
Volume139
Issue number5
Early online date19 May 2016
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2016

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