Challenges in identifying (or not) focal animal sound production in baleen whale acoustic tag datasets
Stimpert, Alison K.
Nowacek, Doug P.
Friedlaender, Ari S.
Johnston, David W.
Goldbogen, Jeremy A.
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Ascribing sounds on animal-borne tag recordings to individual sound producers is integral to understanding social behavior of animal groups. Previously, sounds recorded on tags have been assigned to the tagged individual (focal animal) based on proximity of other conspecifics, angle of arrival, low frequency artifacts in the sound, or a combination of signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) and received level (RL). However, most acoustic-based methods do not translate well to baleen whales producing low frequency sounds, as the tag often resides in the near field of the sound source. In addition, for social species that spend time in groups with conspecifics in close proximity, sounds produced by nearby animals may have comparably high SNR and RL. Here we discuss the challenges of determining if a tagged whale is calling in baleen whale datasets, using acoustic records from two humpback whales, oqe fin whale, and one blue whale as examples. The datasets include intense song or feeding calls and are from several locations. We compare SNR, RL, harmonic content, and behavioral sensor data in these cases, and discuss the implications of confirming sound production by a tagged individual for measuring communication, behavior, and responses to external stimuli in baleen whales.
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