[MARMAM] New Publication: The active space of sperm whale codas: inter-click information for intra-unit communication

Ellen Jacobs erj22 at georgetown.edu
Mon Feb 26 09:07:08 PST 2024

Dear All,

We are pleased to announce the publication of our study, "The active space
of sperm whale codas: inter-click information for intra-unit
communication", in the Journal of Experimental Biology.

Jacobs, E. R., Gero, S., Malinka, C. E., Tønnesen, P. H., Beedholm, K.,
DeRuiter, S. L., & Madsen, P. T. (2024). The active space of sperm whale
codas: inter-click information for intra-unit communication. *Journal of
Experimental Biology*, *227*(4).

Abstract: Sperm whales (*Physeter macrocephalus*) are social mega-predators
who form stable matrilineal units that often associate within a larger
vocal clan. Clan membership is defined by sharing a repertoire of coda
types consisting of specific temporal spacings of multi-pulsed clicks. It
has been hypothesized that codas communicate membership across socially
segregated sympatric clans, but others propose that codas are primarily
used for behavioral coordination and social cohesion within a closely
spaced social unit. Here, we test these hypotheses by combining measures of
ambient noise levels and coda click source levels with models of sound
propagation to estimate the active space of coda communication. Coda clicks
were localized off the island of Dominica with a four- or five-element 80 m
vertical hydrophone array, allowing us to calculate the median RMS source
levels of 1598 clicks from 444 codas to be 161 dB re. 1 μPa (IQR 153–167),
placing codas among the most powerful communication sounds in toothed
whales. However, together with measured ambient noise levels, these source
levels lead to a median active space of coda communication of ∼4 km,
reflecting the maximum footprint of a single foraging sperm whale unit. We
conclude that while sperm whale codas may contain information about clan
affiliation, their moderate active space shows that codas are not used for
long range acoustic communication between units and clans, but likely serve
to mediate social cohesion and behavioral transitions in intra-unit

Ellen Jacobs

Ellen Jacobs (she/her)
PhD Candidate, Department of Biology
Georgetown University
3700 O St NW, Washington, DC 20097
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