Whistle characteristics of common dolphins (Delphinus sp.) in the Hauraki Gulf, New Zealand



Quantifying the vocal repertoire of a species is critical for subsequent analysis of signal functionality, geographic variation, and social relevance. However, the vocalizations of free-ranging common dolphins (Delphinus sp.) have not previously been described from New Zealand waters. We present the first quantitative analysis of whistle characteristics to be undertaken on the New Zealand population. Acoustic data were collected in the Hauraki Gulf, North Island from 28 independent dolphin group encounters. A total of 11,715 whistles were collected from 105.1 min of recordings. Seven whistle contours were identified containing 29 subtypes. Vocalizations spanned from 3.2 to 23 kHz, with most whistles occurring between 11 and 13 kHz. Whistle duration ranged from 0.01 to 4.00 s (mean ± SD; 0.27 ± 0.32). Of the 2,663 whistles analyzed, 82% have previously been identified within U.K. populations. An additional six contours, apparently unique to New Zealand Delphinus were also identified. Data presented here offer a first insight into the whistle characteristics of New Zealand Delphinus. Comparisons with previously studied populations reveal marked differences in the whistle frequency and modulation of the New Zealand population. Interpopulation differences suggest behavior and the local environment likely play a role in shaping the vocal repertoire of this species.