Northern bottlenose whales in a pristine environment respond strongly to close and distant navy sonar signals
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Impact assessments for sonar operations typically use received sound levels to predict behavioural disturbance in marine mammals. However, there are indications that cetaceans may learn to associate exposures from distant sound sources with lower perceived risk. To investigate the roles of source distance and received level in an area without frequent sonar activity, we conducted multi-scale controlled exposure experiments (n = 3) with 12 northern bottlenose whales near Jan Mayen, Norway. Animals were tagged with high-resolution archival tags (n = 1 per experiment) or medium-resolution satellite tags (n = 9 in total) and subsequently exposed to sonar. We also deployed bottom-moored recorders to acoustically monitor for whales in the exposed area. Tagged whales initiated avoidance of the sound source over a wide range of distances (0.8–28 km), with responses characteristic of beaked whales. Both onset and intensity of response were better predicted by received sound pressure level (SPL) than by source distance. Avoidance threshold SPLs estimated for each whale ranged from 117–126 dB re 1 µPa, comparable to those of other tagged beaked whales. In this pristine underwater acoustic environment, we found no indication that the source distances tested in our experiments modulated the behavioural effects of sonar, as has been suggested for locations where whales are frequently exposed to sonar.
Wensveen , P J , Isojunno , S , Hansen , R R , Von Benda-beckmann , A M , Kleivane , L , Van Ijsselmuide , S , Lam , F A , Kvadsheim , P H , Deruiter , S L , Curé , C , Narazaki , T , Tyack , P L & Miller , P J O 2019 , ' Northern bottlenose whales in a pristine environment respond strongly to close and distant navy sonar signals ' , Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences , vol. 286 , no. 1899 , 20182592 . https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2018.2592
Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Copyright © 2019 The Authors. Published by the Royal Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/, which permits unrestricted use, provided the original author and source are credited.
DescriptionThe research described in this paper was supported by US Office of Naval Research (ONR grants N00014-15-1-2533 and N00014-16-1-3059), US Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP award RC-2337), the French Ministry of Defence (DGA) and the Netherlands Ministry of Defence. P.L.T. acknowledges support from the MASTS pooling initiative (Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland; supported by the Scottish Funding Council, grant reference HR09011, and contributing institutions). All relevant data and scripts are within the paper and its electronic supplementary material, or available from the Dryad Digital Repository: https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.fc5c0s4
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