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J Exp Biol. 2017 Nov 15;220(Pt 22):4119-4129. doi: 10.1242/jeb.151498. Epub 2017 Sep 7.

Characterizing Chilean blue whale vocalizations with DTAGs: a test of using tag accelerometers for caller identification.

Author information

Biology Department, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA 02543-1050, USA
The College, The University of Chicago, Chicago, IL 60637, USA.
Applied Ocean Physics and Engineering Department, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA 02543-1050, USA.
Sea Mammal Research Unit, Scottish Oceans Institute, University of St Andrews, St Andrews KY16 8LB, UK.
Open Ocean Consulting, 3(B) Oaklands Road, Petersfield, Hampshire GU32 2EY, UK.
Fundación MERI, Av. Kennedy 5682, piso 2, Vitacura, 7650720 Santiago, Chile.
Department of Biology, Hopkins Marine Station, Stanford University, Pacific Grove, CA 93950, USA.
Biology Department, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA 02543-1050, USA.
School of Cognitive Science, Hampshire College, Amherst, MA 01002, USA.


Vocal behavior of blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus) in the Gulf of Corcovado, Chile, was analysed using both audio and accelerometer data from digital acoustic recording tags (DTAGs). Over the course of three austral summers (2014, 2015 and 2016), seventeen tags were deployed, yielding 124 h of data. We report the occurrence of Southeast Pacific type 2 (SEP2) calls, which exhibit peak frequencies, durations and timing consistent with previous recordings made using towed and moored hydrophones. We also describe tonal downswept (D) calls, which have not been previously described for this population. As being able to accurately assign vocalizations to individual whales is fundamental for studying communication and for estimating population densities from call rates, we further examine the feasibility of using high-resolution DTAG accelerometers to identify low-frequency calls produced by tagged blue whales. We cross-correlated acoustic signals with simultaneous tri-axial accelerometer readings in order to analyse the phase match as well as the amplitude of accelerometer signals associated with low-frequency calls, which provides a quantitative method of determining if a call is associated with a detectable acceleration signal. Our results suggest that vocalizations from nearby individuals are also capable of registering accelerometer signals in the tagged whale's DTAG record. We cross-correlate acceleration vectors between calls to explore the possibility of using signature acceleration patterns associated with sounds produced within the tagged whale as a new method of identifying which accelerometer-detectable calls originate from the tagged animal.


Acoustic behavior; Balaenoptera musculus; Cross-correlation; D call; DTAG; Downsweep call


Conflict of interest statement

Competing interestsThe authors declare no competing or financial interests.

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