"The impacts of increases in ocean noise from human activities are a concern for the conservation of marine animals like right whales," said Susan Parks, assistant professor of acoustics and research associate, Applied Research Laboratory, Penn State. "The ability to change vocalizations to compensate for environmental noise is critical for successful communication in an increasingly noisy ocean."
This is a North Atlantic right whale diving with tail in the air. Credit: Susan Parks: Penn State
Right whales are large baleen whales that often approach close to shore. They may have been given the name because they were the right whales to hunt as they are rich in blubber, slow swimming and remain afloat after death. Consequently, whalers nearly hunted these whales to extinction. Currently right whales are monitored to determine the health and size of the population. The northern and southern right whales are on the endangered species list."Right whale upcalls are used extensively for passive acoustic monitoring in conservation efforts to protect this endangered species," said Parks.
Parks and her colleagues, Mark Johnson and Peter L. Tyack, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and Douglas Nowacek, Duke University, looked at short-term modifications of calling behavior of individual North Atlantic right whales in varying environmental noise situations. They report their results in today's (July 6) issue of Biology Letters.
The researchers' data came from right whales tagged with acoustic suction cup tags. They listened to tag recordings from seven male and seven female whales totaling 107 calls. The tags recorded from 2 to 18 calls each. The team looked at received level, duration and fundamental frequency of the calls, and they compared background noise levels with the call-received levels of the individual calls. Noise below 400 Hertz dominated the recorded background noise. These frequencies overlap with the frequencies of right whale upcalls. Much of the increase in background ocean noise in right whale habitat is believed to be due to commercial shipping.
It appears that right whales increase the amplitude, or the energy in their calls, directly as background noise levels increase without changing the frequency. This suggests that right whales can maintain the signal to noise ratio of their calls in moderate levels of ocean noise.
"Whether they can maintain their communication range in noisier environments still needs to be tested," said Parks. "Ocean sound levels will probably continue to increase due to human activities and there is a physical limit to the maximum source level that an animal can produce."
Another implication for potential changes in whale calls is that upcalls are the whale calls that conservationists use to monitor right whale populations. They do this using automated acoustic sensors that are looking for specific parameters to tease out the whale calls from other noises.
The research team cautions that "Variability of call parameters also can reduce the effectiveness of detection algorithms and should be taken into account when calculating the probability of detection in different habitats."
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Office of Naval Research supported this work.
A'ndrea Elyse Messer | EurekAlert!
Researchers identify potentially druggable mutant p53 proteins that promote cancer growth
09.12.2016 | Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
Plant-based substance boosts eyelash growth
09.12.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Polymerforschung IAP
Physicists of the University of Würzburg have made an astonishing discovery in a specific type of topological insulators. The effect is due to the structure of the materials used. The researchers have now published their work in the journal Science.
Topological insulators are currently the hot topic in physics according to the newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Only a few weeks ago, their importance was...
In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.
Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
09.12.2016 | Life Sciences
09.12.2016 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation
09.12.2016 | Health and Medicine