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Combining data from a multisensor tag and passive sonar to determine the diving behavior of a sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus)

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4 Author(s)
Zimmer, W.M.X. ; NATO SACLANT Undersea Res. Centre, La Spezia, Italy ; Johnson, M.P. ; D'Amico, A. ; Tyack, P.L.

Reports on the diving behavior of a sperm whale tagged and tracked on September 6, 2000 during the Sirena 2000 cruise in the Ligurian Sea. A total of about 4.5 h of acoustic and nonacoustic sensor data were recorded when a sperm whale was tagged with a Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution developed tag with a hydrophone, motion, and pressure sensors. The animal was simultaneously tracked with a passive sonar system deployed from the NATO research vessel NRV Alliance. By combining data from the tag and passive sonar, we were able to reconstruct a three-dimensional track of the whale, along with its orientation and vocal behavior. While it was tagged, the whale carried out three deep dives to a depth of about 900 m in an area with a bottom depth of about 2600 m. The inter-click intervals of the diving whale were not consistent with ranging on the bottom, but were consistent with the hypothesis that the whale was possibly echolocating on some target(s) near the depth at which it dove to feed. This study demonstrated an ability to track subtle changes in the behavior of diving whales. This ability is important for three areas: 1) basic research, 2) studies of the responses of these animals to controlled exposures of man-made noise, and 3) studies to infer the biological significance of behavioral disruption.

Published in:

Oceanic Engineering, IEEE Journal of  (Volume:28 ,  Issue: 1 )