Researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego are using underwater microphones to interpret and characterize the calls of blue whales swimming through Southern California’s oceans, revealing new insights into the behavior of these endangered marine mammals, according to new research being presented at the Ocean Sciences Meeting in Portland, Ore.
Stretching nearly 30 meters (100 feet) long and weighing up to 172 metric tons (190 short tons), the endangered blue whale is the largest animal known to have existed. Though the exact purpose of blue whale vocalizations remains elusive, researchers think the whales may use calls to maintain distance between one another, facilitate mating or signal the presence of prey, among other purposes.
To better understand these vocalizations, scientists recorded and analyzed more than 4,500 sounds from blue whales tagged with underwater microphones and pressure sensors in and around Southern California’s Channel Islands between 2002 and 2016.
The new research compared three types of calling behavior with different diving patterns to uncover behavioral links.
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