North Atlantic right whales’ voices, new research

This video from the USA says about itself:

22 January 2016

The North Atlantic right whale is an endangered species with as few as 500 that exist in the waters from Canada to Florida. This educational video is designed to increase the public knowledge on right whales. FAU Harbor Branch, College of Education’s Pine Jog and College of Science; and Marine Resources Council with assistance from Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission and National Marine Fisheries Service, produced this video utilizing Protect Florida Whale speciality license plate funds.

From Syracuse University in the USA:

Voice control: Why North Atlantic right whales change calls as they age

February 27, 2018

Former Syracuse postdoctoral researcher Holly Root-Gutteridge has always been a good listener — a trait that has served her very well in her bioacoustic research of mammals, both aquatic and landlocked. Most recently her ears have tuned-in to vocal stylings of the North Atlantic right whale.

Through extensive listening and analysis of whale calls — which were recorded by a large collaboration of scientists over the past two decades — Root-Gutteridge was able to pick up the slow gradual changes in sound production in the marine giants as they age. Looking at spectrograms of the calls, which provide visual representations of the sound, the research team could see the progression of vocal characteristics of the animals from calf throughout adulthood.

The whales produced clearer, longer calls with age, a trend that did not end when they reached physical maturity, as had been predicted.

“We’re learning that these right whales can have more control of their voices,” explains the bioacoustics researcher. “That means they may be sending more complex information than we previously thought.”

Through continued study, Root-Gutteridge believes that scientists will be able to better understand how whales communicate in the wild, which can lead to stronger worldwide conservation efforts of the sea mammals.

Root-Gutteridge’s newest investigation “A lifetime of changing calls: North Atlantic right whales, Eubalaena glacialis, refine call production as they age”, a collaborative research project with researchers from Syracuse University, Cornell University, Duke University and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Northeast fisheries office, was recently published in the March edition of the journal Animal Behaviour. The paper is based on work that was done while she was a researcher in the lab of Associate Professor, Susan Parks.

While still at Syracuse, Root-Gutteridge turned heads around the world with her wolf dialect research back in 2016. Contrasting the recordings of over 2,000 howls from 13 different species and subspecies of wolves, the biologist discovered that wolves, much like people, have regional vocalization patterns, or dialects, depending on their locale.

“I learned a lot at Syracuse as I’d never studied marine mammals before. I know a lot more about whales and their songs and have developed some great skills in analyzing animal sound”, says Root-Gutteridge. “I also have a much better understanding of how tough it is to study marine mammals as their home ranges are just so big. When I studied wolves, I thought 25 square miles was a lot of territory to cover, but the whales swim all the way up and down the East Coast!”

Since finishing at Syracuse, her work has literally gone to the dogs. Root-Gutteridge is currently at the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom where her next bioacoustics project, “How Dogs Hear Us: Human speech perception by domestic dogs”, explores what animals of the canine persuasion hear when humans speak.

New validation study analyzing hormone profile shows the duration and negative effects of fishing gear entanglement on the North Atlantic right whale — one of the most endangered whale species. Providing information on foraging success, migration behavior and body functioning, this technique can be used to study other baleen species to understand the impact of fishing activity on threatened whale populations: here.

Why is the endangered western North Atlantic right whale population growing far more slowly than those of southern right whales, a sister species also recovering from near extinction by commercial whaling? Researchers looked more closely at the question and have concluded that preserving the lives of adult females in the population is by far the most effective way to promote population growth and recovery: here.

New research connects recent changes in the movement of North Atlantic right whales to decreased food availability and rising temperatures in Gulf of Maine’s deep waters. Right whales have been showing up in unexpected places in recent years, putting the endangered species at increased risk. The study provides insights to this key issue complicating conservation efforts: here.

SCIENTISTS FEAR EXTINCTION OF RARE WHALES Concerned scientists are sounding the alarm over the loss of six rare North Atlantic right whales off the Canadian coast in a single month. There are only some 400 of the animals left on Earth, and fewer than 100 of them are females of reproductive age. [HuffPost]

Some “canaries” are 50 feet long, weigh 70 tons, and are nowhere near a coal mine. But the highly endangered North Atlantic right whale is sending the same kind of message about disruptive change in the environment by rapidly altering its use of important habitat areas off the New England coast. These findings are contained in a new study published in Global Change Biology by scientists at the Center for Conservation Bioacoustics (formerly the Bioacoustics Research Program) at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and at Syracuse University. It’s the longest running published study to continuously monitor the presence of any whale species at one location using sound”: here.

12 thoughts on “North Atlantic right whales’ voices, new research

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