Whale-call response to masking boat noise


Background noise can interfere with the detection and discrimination of crucial signals among members of a species. Here we investigate the vocal behaviour in the presence and absence of whale-watcher boat traffic of three social groups (pods) of killer whales (Orcinus orca) living in the nearshore waters of Washington state. We find longer call durations in the presence of boats for all three pods, but only in recent recordings made following a period of increasing boat traffic. This result indicates that these whales adjust their behaviour to compensate for anthropogenic noise once it reaches a threshold level.

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Figure 1


Figure 2: Effect of whale-watcher boat noise on calls made by killer whales.


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Correspondence to A. Rus Hoelzel.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Contains supplementary methods and table showing details of data analyses. (DOC 59 kb)

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