Ecologists have at last got a view of sperm whales behaviour during their long, deep dives, thanks to the use of recently developed electronic "dtags". According to new research published in the British Ecological Societys Journal of Animal Ecology, sperm whales – like bats – use echolocation consistently to track down their prey at depth.
Working in the Atlantic, the Gulf of Mexico and the Ligurian Sea, scientists from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the University of St Andrews attached acoustic recording tags to the dorsal surface of sperm whales with suction cups. The whales were then tracked acoustically with a towed hydrophone array.
The researchers used the tags to record the sounds that sperm whales produce while foraging. As sperm whales descended from the surface, they emitted a regular series of "clicks". When the whales reach the bottom of their dive, these clicks are emitted more often, eventually merging together to form "buzzes" of sound. This pattern reflects the whales homing in on cephalopods such as squid, with the buzzes reflecting the animals final approach when detailed information on the squids position and movement are required, the researchers believe.
Becky Allen | EurekAlert!
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