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J Acoust Soc Am. 2003 Jun;113(6):3411-24.

Variation in humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) song length in relation to low-frequency sound broadcasts.

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  • 1Bioacoustics Research Program, Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York 14853, USA.


Humpback whale song lengths were measured from recordings made off the west coast of the island of Hawai'i in March 1998 in relation to acoustic broadcasts ("pings") from the U.S. Navy SURTASS Low Frequency Active sonar system. Generalized additive models were used to investigate the relationships between song length and time of year, time of day, and broadcast factors. There were significant seasonal and diurnal effects. The seasonal factor was associated with changes in the density of whales sighted near shore. The diurnal factor was associated with changes in surface social activity. Songs that ended within a few minutes of the most recent ping tended to be longer than songs sung during control periods. Many songs that were overlapped by pings, and songs that ended several minutes after the most recent ping, did not differ from songs sung in control periods. The longest songs were sung between 1 and 2 h after the last ping. Humpbacks responded to louder broadcasts with longer songs. The fraction of variation in song length that could be attributed to broadcast factors was low. Much of the variation in humpback song length remains unexplained.

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