Nav: Home

Tuning into dolphin chatter could boost conservation efforts

April 29, 2020

Tuning in to the signature 'whistles' of dolphins could prove a game-changer in being able to accurately track the movements of this much-loved protected species.

Researchers from Edith Cowan University (ECU) and Curtin University in Australia have moved an important step closer to using sound rather than sight to track individual dolphin activity.

Their study, which has potential implications for dolphin communities around the world, investigated whether there was a way to attribute unique whistles to individual bottlenose dolphins living in Western Australia's Swan River.

It is the first time researchers have attempted acoustic tracking dolphins in the Swan River, which is a complicated marine ecosystem due to its high volume of activity and noise.

ECU researcher Associate Professor Chandra Salgado Kent said the project could have significant implications for dolphin conservation.

"Our ultimate aim is to track the movements of individual dolphins through underwater acoustic recorders," Professor Salgado Kent said.

"Until now researchers around the world have relied on laborious and expensive visual surveys on boats to track individual dolphins.

"These surveys can only be conducted during the day and rely on photographing the unique nicks and notches in dorsal fins when they come to the surface.

"We aimed to design a new approach to monitor individual dolphin activity through matching unique sounds, known as signature whistles, to individual dolphins."

A challenging process

From April to September 2013 the researchers systemically monitored an area within the eastern part of the Fremantle Inner Harbour where the Swan River narrows.

Acoustic recordings were made throughout all observation times with handheld hydrophones deployed over the side of the small craft jetty lowered to 1.5m depth.

More than 500 whistles were matched to dolphin photos over the period of the study.

Curtin University Professor Christine Erbe said the process presented some unique challenges.

"Dolphins are social creatures and very frequently seen in groups, which makes the process of matching the whistles to particular individuals very challenging," she said.

"Based on the presence and absence of dolphins when whistles were recorded, most whistle types were narrowed down to a range of possible dolphins that could have produced it.

"Our next goal will be to narrow this down to individuals."
-end-
Data collection was in part supported by the Fremantle Ports and Australian Acoustical Society, and in kind through the WA Department of Biodiversity Conservation and Attractions.

The study was published in Acoustics Australia.

Pics, video and audio available.

Edith Cowan University

Related Dolphins Articles:

Study finds high levels of toxic pollutants in stranded dolphins and whales
Researchers examined toxins in tissue concentrations and pathology data from 83 stranded dolphins and whales from 2012 to 2018.
Tracking humanity's latest toxins in stranded whales and dolphins
As humanity develops new types of plastics and chemicals, researchers are constantly trying to keep up with understanding how these contaminants affect the environment and wildlife.
Young dolphins pick their friends wisely
Strategic networking is key to career success, and not just for humans.
Dolphins learn foraging skills from peers
Dolphins can learn new skills from their fellow dolphins. That's the conclusion of a new study reported in the journal Current Biology on June 25.
Dolphins learn in similar ways to great apes
Dolphins learn new foraging techniques not just from their mothers, but also from their peers, a study by the University of Zurich has found.
Shelling out for dinner -- Dolphins learn foraging skills from peers
Dolphins use empty gastropod shells to trap prey. A new study demonstrates for the first time that dolphins can learn this foraging technique outside the mother-calf bond - showing that they have a similar cultural nature to great apes.
Good night? Satellite data uncovers dolphins on the move at nighttime
More than 1,000 bottlenose dolphins live in Florida's Indian River Lagoon year-round.
Cooperative male dolphins match the tempo of each other's calls
When it comes to working together, male dolphins coordinate their behavior just like us.
Dolphins gather in female family groups
Social clusters including mothers' groups play an important role in the life of southern Australian bottlenose dolphins, a new study shows.
Lights on fishing nets save turtles and dolphins
Placing lights on fishing nets reduces the chances of sea turtles and dolphins being caught by accident, new research shows.
More Dolphins News and Dolphins Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: The Power Of Spaces
How do spaces shape the human experience? In what ways do our rooms, homes, and buildings give us meaning and purpose? This hour, TED speakers explore the power of the spaces we make and inhabit. Guests include architect Michael Murphy, musician David Byrne, artist Es Devlin, and architect Siamak Hariri.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#576 Science Communication in Creative Places
When you think of science communication, you might think of TED talks or museum talks or video talks, or... people giving lectures. It's a lot of people talking. But there's more to sci comm than that. This week host Bethany Brookshire talks to three people who have looked at science communication in places you might not expect it. We'll speak with Mauna Dasari, a graduate student at Notre Dame, about making mammals into a March Madness match. We'll talk with Sarah Garner, director of the Pathologists Assistant Program at Tulane University School of Medicine, who takes pathology instruction out of...
Now Playing: Radiolab

What If?
There's plenty of speculation about what Donald Trump might do in the wake of the election. Would he dispute the results if he loses? Would he simply refuse to leave office, or even try to use the military to maintain control? Last summer, Rosa Brooks got together a team of experts and political operatives from both sides of the aisle to ask a slightly different question. Rather than arguing about whether he'd do those things, they dug into what exactly would happen if he did. Part war game part choose your own adventure, Rosa's Transition Integrity Project doesn't give us any predictions, and it isn't a referendum on Trump. Instead, it's a deeply illuminating stress test on our laws, our institutions, and on the commitment to democracy written into the constitution. This episode was reported by Bethel Habte, with help from Tracie Hunte, and produced by Bethel Habte. Jeremy Bloom provided original music. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.     You can read The Transition Integrity Project's report here.