Variability of Echolocation Clicks in Beluga Whales (Delphinapterus leucas) Within Shallow Waters

Document: Article
Abstract: While echolocation is vital to the sensory ecology of odontocetes, we have few data characterizing the signals of most species, limiting our understanding of key attributes of these animals, especially for those with a diverse range of habitats. Beluga whales (Delphinapterus leucas) have successfully overcome the pressures of living in both shallow and deep open water habitats. We characterized the echolocation clicks of 13 wild beluga whales during temporary capture-and-release events in Bristol Bay, Alaska (USA). We extracted and examined 556 high-quality clicks from approximately 22 hours of recordings. As a group, the duration (41.1 ± 17.3 µs; mean ± SD), peak frequency (97.9 ± 34.4 kHz), centroid frequency (101.9 ± 23.9 kHz), -3 dB bandwidth (29.1 ± 14.4 kHz), -10 dB bandwidth (67.7 ± 31.8 kHz), and root mean square (RMS) bandwidth (27.8 ± 8.1 kHz) were assessed. These are the first on-axis data from wild belugas in their natural shallow water habitat within 1 m. Beluga whales emit clicks with high frequency and high source level in extremely shallow waters regardless of the potential strong reverberations and clutter. These results provide a foundation for future studies on how this species manipulates its sonar to successfully operate in acoustically challenging shallow waters.
Key Words: odontocete, noise, soundscape, echolocation click, signal, cue
Page Numbers: 62-72

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