Department of Biology

Aarhus University Seal / Aarhus Universitets segl

Professor Peter Teglberg Madsen

The long-range echo scene of the sperm whale biosonar

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The long-range echo scene of the sperm whale biosonar. / Tønnesen, Pernille; Oliveira, Cláudia; Johnson, Mark; Madsen, Peter Teglberg.

In: Biology Letters, Vol. 16, No. 8, 20200134, 08.2020.

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@article{74720ba87d6646b589fd5431ba75112a,
title = "The long-range echo scene of the sperm whale biosonar",
abstract = "Sperm whales use their gigantic nose to produce the most powerful sounds in the animal kingdom, presumably to echolocate deep-sea prey at long ranges and possibly to debilitate prey. To test these hypotheses, we deployed sound recording tags (DTAG-4) on the tip of the nose of three sperm whales. One of these recordings yielded over 6000 echo streams from organisms detected up to 144 m ahead of the whale, supporting a long-range prey detection function of the sperm whale biosonar. The whale navigated this complex acoustic scene by maintaining a stable, long-range acoustic gaze suggesting continual resource evaluation. Less than 10% of the echoic organisms recorded by the tag were targeted for capture and only 18% of the buzzes were emitted within the 50 m depth interval of maximum organism encounter rate, demonstrating echo-guided prey selection. Buzzes were initiated more than 20 m from the prey, showing that sperm whales do not debilitate their prey with sound, but trade echo levels for reduced forward masking and rapid updates on prey location in keeping with the lower manoeuvrability of these large predators. We conclude that the powerful biosonar of sperm whales enables long-range echolocation and selection of prey, but not acoustic debilitation.",
keywords = "acoustic debilitation, acoustic scene, DTAG, prey selection, sensory ecology, toothed whale",
author = "Pernille T{\o}nnesen and Cl{\'a}udia Oliveira and Mark Johnson and Madsen, {Peter Teglberg}",
year = "2020",
month = aug,
doi = "10.1098/rsbl.2020.0134",
language = "English",
volume = "16",
journal = "Biology Letters",
issn = "1744-9561",
publisher = "ROYAL SOC",
number = "8",

}

RIS

TY - JOUR

T1 - The long-range echo scene of the sperm whale biosonar

AU - Tønnesen, Pernille

AU - Oliveira, Cláudia

AU - Johnson, Mark

AU - Madsen, Peter Teglberg

PY - 2020/8

Y1 - 2020/8

N2 - Sperm whales use their gigantic nose to produce the most powerful sounds in the animal kingdom, presumably to echolocate deep-sea prey at long ranges and possibly to debilitate prey. To test these hypotheses, we deployed sound recording tags (DTAG-4) on the tip of the nose of three sperm whales. One of these recordings yielded over 6000 echo streams from organisms detected up to 144 m ahead of the whale, supporting a long-range prey detection function of the sperm whale biosonar. The whale navigated this complex acoustic scene by maintaining a stable, long-range acoustic gaze suggesting continual resource evaluation. Less than 10% of the echoic organisms recorded by the tag were targeted for capture and only 18% of the buzzes were emitted within the 50 m depth interval of maximum organism encounter rate, demonstrating echo-guided prey selection. Buzzes were initiated more than 20 m from the prey, showing that sperm whales do not debilitate their prey with sound, but trade echo levels for reduced forward masking and rapid updates on prey location in keeping with the lower manoeuvrability of these large predators. We conclude that the powerful biosonar of sperm whales enables long-range echolocation and selection of prey, but not acoustic debilitation.

AB - Sperm whales use their gigantic nose to produce the most powerful sounds in the animal kingdom, presumably to echolocate deep-sea prey at long ranges and possibly to debilitate prey. To test these hypotheses, we deployed sound recording tags (DTAG-4) on the tip of the nose of three sperm whales. One of these recordings yielded over 6000 echo streams from organisms detected up to 144 m ahead of the whale, supporting a long-range prey detection function of the sperm whale biosonar. The whale navigated this complex acoustic scene by maintaining a stable, long-range acoustic gaze suggesting continual resource evaluation. Less than 10% of the echoic organisms recorded by the tag were targeted for capture and only 18% of the buzzes were emitted within the 50 m depth interval of maximum organism encounter rate, demonstrating echo-guided prey selection. Buzzes were initiated more than 20 m from the prey, showing that sperm whales do not debilitate their prey with sound, but trade echo levels for reduced forward masking and rapid updates on prey location in keeping with the lower manoeuvrability of these large predators. We conclude that the powerful biosonar of sperm whales enables long-range echolocation and selection of prey, but not acoustic debilitation.

KW - acoustic debilitation

KW - acoustic scene

KW - DTAG

KW - prey selection

KW - sensory ecology

KW - toothed whale

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=85089132624&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1098/rsbl.2020.0134

DO - 10.1098/rsbl.2020.0134

M3 - Journal article

C2 - 32750270

AN - SCOPUS:85089132624

VL - 16

JO - Biology Letters

JF - Biology Letters

SN - 1744-9561

IS - 8

M1 - 20200134

ER -