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      Changes in Humpback Whale Song Occurrence in Response to an Acoustic Source 200 km Away

      1 , * , 2 , 3 , 2

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          The effect of underwater anthropogenic sound on marine mammals is of increasing concern. Here we show that humpback whale ( Megaptera novaeangliae) song in the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary (SBNMS) was reduced, concurrent with transmissions of an Ocean Acoustic Waveguide Remote Sensing (OAWRS) experiment approximately 200 km away. We detected the OAWRS experiment in SBNMS during an 11 day period in autumn 2006. We compared the occurrence of song for 11 days before, during and after the experiment with song over the same 33 calendar days in two later years. Using a quasi-Poisson generalized linear model (GLM), we demonstrate a significant difference in the number of minutes with detected song between periods and years. The lack of humpback whale song during the OAWRS experiment was the most substantial signal in the data. Our findings demonstrate the greatest published distance over which anthropogenic sound has been shown to affect vocalizing baleen whales, and the first time that active acoustic fisheries technology has been shown to have this effect. The suitability of Ocean Acoustic Waveguide Remote Sensing technology for in-situ, long term monitoring of marine ecosystems should be considered, bearing in mind its possible effects on non-target species, in particular protected species.

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          Songs of humpback whales.

          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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            Beyond BACI: the detection of environmental impacts on populations in the real, but variable, world

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

              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.

                Author and article information

                Role: Editor
                PLoS One
                PLoS ONE
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, USA )
                11 January 2012
                : 7
                : 1
                [1 ]Integrated Statistics, Woods Hole, Massachusetts, United States of America
                [2 ]Northeast Fisheries Science Center, Woods Hole, Massachusetts, United States of America
                [3 ]Marine Acoustics, Inc., Middletown, Rhode Island, United States of America
                Institute of Marine Research, Norway
                Author notes

                Conceived and designed the experiments: DR PJC SMVP. Performed the experiments: DR. Analyzed the data: DR PJC. Contributed reagents/materials/analysis tools: DR PJC WTE. Wrote the paper: DR PJC WTE SMVP.

                This is an open-access article, free of all copyright, and may be freely reproduced, distributed, transmitted, modified, built upon, or otherwise used by anyone for any lawful purpose. The work is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication.
                Page count
                Pages: 6
                Research Article
                Marine Biology
                Earth Sciences
                Marine and Aquatic Sciences
                Science Policy
                Technology Regulations



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