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Keywords:

  • biosonar;
  • ontogeny;
  • bioacoustics

Abstract

In spite of all the information available on adult bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) biosonar, the ontogeny of its echolocation abilities has been investigated very little. Earlier studies have reported that neonatal dolphins can produce both whistles and burst-pulsed sounds just after birth and that early-pulsed sounds are probably a precursor of echolocation click trains. The aim of this research is to investigate the development of echolocation signals in a captive calf, born in the facilities of the Acquario di Genova. A set of 81 impulsive sounds were collected from birth to the seventh postnatal week and six additional echolocation click trains were recorded when the dolphin was 1 year old. Moreover, behavioral observations, concurring with sound production, were carried out by means of a video camera. For each sound we measured five acoustic parameters: click train duration (CTD), number of clicks per train, minimum, maximum, and mean click repetition rate (CRR). CTD and number of clicks per train were found to increase with age. Maximum and mean CRR followed a decreasing trend with dolphin growth starting from the second postnatal week. The calf's first head scanning movement was recorded 21 days after birth. Our data suggest that in the bottlenose dolphin the early postnatal weeks are essential for the development of echolocation abilities and that the temporal features of the echolocation click trains remain relatively stable from the seventh postnatal week up to the first year of life. Zoo Biol. xx:xx–xx, 2012. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals Inc. Zoo Biol. 32:210–215, 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals Inc.