[MARMAM] New paper on Cook Inlet beluga whale acoustics

Manolo Castellote mcastellote at hotmail.com
Fri Dec 3 13:00:14 PST 2021

Dear MARMAM recipients,

New open access paper on PLOSone:

Authors: Manuel Castellote, Aran Mooney, Russel Andrews, Stacy Deruiter, Wu-Jung Lee, Megan Ferguson, Paul Wade.

Title: Beluga whale (Delphinapterus leucas) acoustic foraging behavior and applications for long term monitoring



Cook Inlet, Alaska, is home to an endangered and declining population of 279 belugas (Delphinapterus leucas). Recovery efforts highlight a paucity of basic ecological knowledge, impeding the correct assessment of threats and the development of recovery actions. In particular, information on diet and foraging habitat is very limited for this population. Passive acoustic monitoring has proven to be an efficient approach to monitor beluga distribution and seasonal occurrence. Identifying acoustic foraging behavior could help address the current gap in information on diet and foraging habitat. To address this conservation challenge, eight belugas from a comparative, healthy population in Bristol Bay, Alaska, were instrumented with a multi-sensor tag (DTAG), a satellite tag, and a stomach temperature transmitter in August 2014 and May 2016. DTAG deployments provided 129.6 hours of data including foraging and social behavioral states. A total of 68 echolocation click trains ending in terminal buzzes were identified during successful prey chasing and capture, as well as during social interactions. Of these, 37 click trains were successfully processed to measure inter-click intervals (ICI) and ICI trend in their buzzing section. Terminal buzzes with short ICI (minimum ICI <8.98 ms) and consistently decreasing ICI trend (ICI increment range <1.49 ms) were exclusively associated with feeding behavior. This dual metric was applied to acoustic data from one acoustic mooring within the Cook Inlet beluga critical habitat as an example of the application of detecting feeding in long-term passive acoustic monitoring data. This approach allowed description of the relationship between beluga presence, feeding occurrence, and the timing of spawning runs by different species of anadromous fish. Results reflected a clear preference for the Susitna River delta during eulachon (Thaleichthys pacificus), Chinook (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha), pink (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha), and coho (Oncorhynchus kisutch) salmon spawning run periods, with increased feeding occurrence at the peak of the Chinook and pink salmon runs.

Manuel Castellote

Cooperative Institute for Climate, Ocean, and Ecosystem Studies, University of Washington


Cetacean Assessment and Ecology Program, Marine Mammal Laboratory

Alaska Fisheries Science Center, NOAA Fisheries

7600 Sand Point Way N.E. F/AKC3

Seattle, WA 98115-6349

email: manuel.castellote at noaa.gov

Voice: (206) 526-6866 - Please note no phone or voicemail access for now.

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