[MARMAM] Request for information on vocalization behaviour of bowhead, humpback and right whales.

Carolyn Binder Carolyn.Binder at drdc-rddc.gc.ca
Fri Sep 10 06:22:35 PDT 2010

Subject Heading: Request for information on vocalization behaviour of bowhead, humpback, and right whales.

Hi All,

I am just starting a M.Sc. in  Physics at Dalhousie University.  My research is focused on automatic classification of marine mammal vocalizations.  Four cetacean species have been selected for initial work: bowhead whale, humpback whale, sperm whale, and the northern right whale.  Audio files containing vocalizations from these species were acquired from the MobySound website.

As my background is in Physics, I lack some of the knowledge of marine mammals required for this project.  After a literature review I have come up with some questions which I believe are important to my classification research, and may be best answered by experts in the field.  These questions focus mostly on bowhead and humpback whales.

MobySound audio files contain only the endnotes of the bowhead song, and states that this part of the bowhead song remains relatively invariant with time.  How rapidly do other parts of the bowhead song change?  How long is a typical bowhead song (thinking from an automatic classification viewpoint, if we choose to classify based only on the endnotes of the song how long will passive acoustic systems need to acquire the song before the endnotes are obtained)?

Many scientific papers discuss the temporal variation in humpback song - how much does this affect individual song units as opposed to how units are arranged into a song?  We have chosen to classify humpback vocalizations based on individual units - are there certain song units that change less with time?  I have read that humpbacks only produce song when on their wintering grounds or while transiting from summer grounds to winter grounds.  What sounds, if any, do humpbacks make while on their summer feeding grounds?  What is the extent of spatial variation in humpback song/song units, e.g. how different does a humpback in the Atlantic sound from one in the Pacific?

I have gathered from my reading that some taxonomists believe that there are several different species of the right whale: North Atlantic right whale, southern right whale, and North Pacific right whale.  How differently do the vocalizations from each of these right whale species sound from the others?

Bowhead and humpback whales were chosen because of the challenges presented by the similarities of the duration and frequency range of their vocalizations.  I am aware that in the summer bowheads tend to migrate into ice fields, whereas humpbacks seem to limit their migration to the edge of the pack ice; however, is there significant overlap in their habitat/migratory routes to make this classification relevant in a real-world situation?

If you are able to answer any of the questions that I have posed, can suggest some papers that I should read, or have any additional comments, please send a response to carolyn.binder at drdc-rddc.gc.ca

Thank you in advance for any insight you are able to provide,
Carolyn Binder

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