SEASONAL AND DIURNAL TRENDS OF CHORUSING HUMPBACK WHALES WINTERING IN WATERS OFF WESTERN MAUI

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Abstract

A portable data logger controlled by a Tattletale 7 microcontroller was used to record humpback whale choruses during the 1998 humpback whale winter season in Hawaii. The data logger sampled the sounds for four minutes every half hour using a digitizing rate of 2 kHz, and the data were stored on a hard disk. The results between January and April showed a peak in the sound pressure level between mid-February and mid-March. This peak of approximately 120 dB re 1 μPa coincided with the peak in the number of whales sighted by aerial survey on 7 March 1998. The choruses had spectral peaks at 315 Hz and 630 Hz. Some of the sounds at 630 Hz were second harmonics of the 315 Hz peak and others were not. The data also indicated a diurnal pattern in the sound pressure level, with levels at night significantly louder than the daytime levels. The sound levels began to increase during sunset and remained relatively high until sunrise, when they progressively decreased to a minimum. The nighttime peak occurred within an hour before and after midnight, and the daytime minimum occurred between 1100 and 1500. That more humpback whales appear to sing at night may reflect a switch to sexual advertisement as the primary male mating strategy at this time. It may also indicate that daylight and vision play key roles in the formation of competitive groups. It is suggested that the relative number of humpback whales in a given locale may be estimated by monitoring changes in sound pressure levels.

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