Variability and context specificity of narwhal (Monodon monoceros) whistles and pulsed calls

Authors

  • Marianne Marcoux,

    1. Department of Natural Resource Sciences, Macdonald Campus, McGill University, 21111 Lakeshore Road, Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, Quebec H9X 3V9, Canada E-mail: marianne.marcoux@gmail.com
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    • Present address: Institute of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen AB24 2TZ, Scotland, United Kingdom.

  • Marie Auger-Méthé,

    1. Department of Biology, Life Sciences Center, Dalhousie University, 1355 Oxford Street, Halifax, Nova Scotia B3H 4J1, Canada
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    • Present address: Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2E9, Canada.

  • Murray M. Humphries

    1. Department of Natural Resource Sciences, Macdonald Campus, McGill University, 21111 Lakeshore Road, Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, Quebec H9X 3V9, Canada
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Abstract

The behavioral and environmental context of animal calls provides insights into their functions. Narwhals are a highly vocal species and, like other social cetaceans, rely on acoustic signals to communicate. We characterize and categorize narwhal whistles and pulsed calls, as well as investigate variation in these calls under different contexts (behavior, herd, and year) using recordings made during the month of August 2006–2008, in Koluktoo Bay (72°04′N, 80°32′W). We detected similarities among whistles but not pulsed calls that were produced under a similar behavioral context. Both whistles and pulsed calls recorded within the same herd were more similar than whistles and pulsed calls recorded within different herds. We did not find any type of whistle to be associated with a specific behavior although some acoustical features might be behavior specific. Both whistles and pulsed calls show properties that are consistent with the hypothesis that narwhals produce group- or individual-specific calls.

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