The function of male sperm whale slow clicks in a high latitude habitat: Communication, echolocation, or prey debilitation?

TitleThe function of male sperm whale slow clicks in a high latitude habitat: Communication, echolocation, or prey debilitation?
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsOliveira, Cláudia, Wahlberg Magnus, Johnson Mark, Miller Patrick J. O., and Madsen Peter T.
JournalThe Journal of the Acoustical Society of America
Volume133
Pagination3135-3144
EndNote Rec Number10266
Abstract

Sperm whales produce different click types for echolocation and communication. Usual clicks and buzzes appear to be used primarily in foraging while codas are thought to function in social communication. The function of slow clicks is less clear, but they appear to be produced by males at higher latitudes, where they primarily forage solitarily, and on the breeding grounds, where they roam between groups of females. Here the behavioral context in which these vocalizations are produced and the function they may serve was investigated. Ninety-nine hours of acoustic and diving data were analyzed from sound recording tags on six male sperm whales in Northern Norway. The 755 slow clicks detected were produced by tagged animals at the surface (52%), ascending from a dive (37%), and during the bottom phase (11%), but never during the descent. Slow clicks were not associated with the production of buzzes, other echolocation clicks, or fast maneuvering that would indicate foraging. Some slow clicks were emitted in seemingly repetitive temporal patterns supporting the hypothesis that the function for slow clicks on the feeding grounds is long range communication between males, possibly relaying information about individual identity or behavioral states.