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      Food talk: 40-Hz fin whale calls are associated with prey biomass


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          Animals use varied acoustic signals that play critical roles in their lives. Understanding the function of these signals may inform about key life-history processes relevant for conservation. In the case of fin whales ( Balaenoptera physalus), that produce different call types associated with different behaviours, several hypotheses have emerged regarding call function, but the topic still remains in its infancy. Here, we investigate the potential function of two fin whale vocalizations, the song-forming 20-Hz call and the 40-Hz call, by examining their production in relation to season, year and prey biomass. Our results showed that the production of 20-Hz calls was strongly influenced by season, with a clear peak during the breeding months, and secondarily by year, likely due to changes in whale abundance. These results support the reproductive function of the 20-Hz song used as an acoustic display. Conversely, season and year had no effect on variation in 40-Hz calling rates, but prey biomass did. This is the first study linking 40-Hz call activity to prey biomass, supporting the previously suggested food-associated function of this call. Understanding the functions of animal signals can help identifying functional habitats and predict the negative effects of human activities with important implications for conservation.

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          1) Humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) produce a series of beautiful and varied sounds for a period of 7 to 30 minutes and then repeat the same series with considerable precision. We call such a performance "singing" and each repeated series of sounds a "song." 2) All prolonged sound patterns (recorded so far) of this species are in song form, and each individual adheres to its own song type. 3) There seem to be several song types around which whales construct their songs, but individual variations are pronounced (there is only a very rough species-specific song pattern). 4) Songs are repeated without any obvious pause between them; thus song sessions may continue for several hours. 5) The sequence of themes in successive songs by the same individual is the same. Although the number of phrases per theme varies, no theme is ever completely omitted in our sample. 6) Loud sounds in the ocean, for example dynamite blasts, do not seem to affect the whale's songs. 7) The sex of the performer of any of the songs we have studied is unknown. 8) The function of the songs is unknown.
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                Author and article information

                Role: ConceptualizationRole: Data curationRole: Formal analysisRole: MethodologyRole: Writing-original draftRole: Writing-review & editing
                Role: Formal analysisRole: MethodologyRole: Writing-review & editing
                Role: MethodologyRole: ResourcesRole: Writing-review & editing
                Role: Formal analysisRole: MethodologyRole: Writing-review & editing
                Role: ConceptualizationRole: MethodologyRole: SupervisionRole: Writing-review & editing
                Role: Formal analysisRole: Methodology
                Role: ConceptualizationRole: Funding acquisitionRole: InvestigationRole: Project administrationRole: SupervisionRole: Writing-review & editing
                Proc Biol Sci
                Proc Biol Sci
                Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
                The Royal Society
                July 14, 2021
                July 7, 2021
                July 7, 2021
                : 288
                : 1954
                [ 1 ]Okeanos – Instituto de Investigação em Ciências do Mar, Universidade dos Açores & IMAR – Instituto do Mar, , Horta, Portugal
                [ 2 ]Centro de Matemática, Aplicações Fundamentais e Investigação Operacional, Faculdade de Ciências, Universidade de Lisboa, , Lisboa, Portugal
                [ 3 ]Collecte Localisation Satellite (CLS), , Ramonville St Agne, France
                [ 4 ]Instituto Dom Luiz (IDL), Universidade de Lisboa, , Lisboa, Portugal
                [ 5 ]Centro de Estatística e Aplicações, Departamento de Biologia, Faculdade de Ciências, Universidade de Lisboa, , Lisboa, Portugal
                [ 6 ]Centre for Research into Ecological and Environmental Modelling, University of St Andrews, , St Andrews, UK
                Author notes

                Electronic supplementary material is available online at https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.c.5479591.

                © 2021 The Authors.

                Published by the Royal Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/, which permits unrestricted use, provided the original author and source are credited.

                Funded by: ERDF;
                Funded by: European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme;
                Award ID: SPJ and MAS funded by SUMMER H2020-EU.
                Funded by: US NAVY;
                Award ID: TAM was funded by LMR ACCURATE (contract number N3
                Funded by: Portuguese Ministry for Science and Education;
                Funded by: POPH;
                Funded by: COMPETE;
                Funded by: Fundo Europeu de Desenvolvimento Regional;
                Funded by: QREN;
                Funded by: ESF;
                Funded by: Lisbon Regional Operational Programme;
                Funded by: Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia;
                Award ID: HM thanks support by CMAF-CIO (UID/MAT/00006/2013
                Award ID: IC was funded by AWARENESS (PTDC/BIA-BMA/30514/201
                Award ID: MAS was funded by an investigator contract (IF/009
                Award ID: Okeanos R&D centre (UIDB/05634/2020)
                Award ID: TAM was funded by CEAUL (UID/MAT/00006/2013 ) and
                Award ID: TRACE (PTDC/ MAR/74071/2006)
                Funded by: Fundo Regional da Ciência e Tecnologia;
                Award ID: MAPCET (M2.1.2/F/012/2011)
                Award ID: MR doctoral grant (M3.1.a/F/028/2015)
                Funded by: Eropean Union;
                Award ID: MAS was funded by RAGES (RAGES 110661/2018/794607/
                Research Articles
                Custom metadata
                July 14, 2021

                Life sciences
                fin whale,song,food-associated call,prey biomass,ecosystem model
                Life sciences
                fin whale, song, food-associated call, prey biomass, ecosystem model


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