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Keywords:

  • sperm whale;
  • Physeter catadon;
  • diving;
  • tagging;
  • transponder tag;
  • sonar tracking

Abstract: Two sperm whales tagged with acoustic transponder tags were tracked by sonar during a cruise from 16 to 30 October 1991 in the southeast Caribbean west of Dominica Island. The whales dove to depths of 400–600 m and more, including a dive to 1,185 m and one possibly to 2,000 m. They were tracked for periods of 3–14 h, over distances of 8.5–40 km. The tagged whales were found together four and eight days after tagging, and were tracked simultaneously for 13 h, over 31 km. Whale movements on different days at the surface averaged from 0.68 to 0.82 m/set, with dive descent rates from 0.82 to 1.13 m/set, ascent rates from 0.74 to 1.16 m/set, and horizontal movement during dives from 0.76 to 1.29 m/set. Dives lasted from 18 min to 1 h and 13 min, averaging 33 and 41 min on different days. Every track ended when tag signals became obscured at night by dense biological scatterers concentrated in offshore areas where the whales were diving. Both tagged whales appear to have been males of 15 and 11m, each dominant in different groups; but when together the larger whale was dominant, as evidenced by chases and agonistic vocalizations. The whales did not appear to react to the tags or to the sounds associated with tracking (30, 32, and 36 kHz).