Acoustic Communication in the North Atlantic Right whale (Eubalaena glacialis)

Susan Parks, Ph.D., 2003
Peter Tyack, Advisor

The focus of this thesis is the use of sound for communication by the North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis). The surface active group (SAG) is a common social interaction involving sound in this species. Different group compositions in SAGs indicate that both potentially reproductive and non-reproductive groups have been combined under one label. Sound production in SAGs suggests that females form and maintain the groups by producing Scream calls. Males produce Upcalls and Gunshot sounds. Some calves produce Warble sounds in SAGs. Acoustic recordings confirm that SAGs are complex interactions between individuals, rather than simple groups with only one whale producing all the sounds to attract other whales to the group. Playback experiments demonstrate that right whales can use sounds from SAGs to locate the groups. Anatomical modeling resulted in a frequency range of hearing for the right whale (10 Hz - 22 kHz) that is consistent with the sounds that they produce and overlaps the frequency range of most anthropogenic noise sources. This research describes the use of sound by North Atlantic right whales in SAGs and how increasing levels of noise in the oceans may impact right whales in these groups.