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Characterizing whale vocalization can help map migration

December 03, 2019

SAN DIEGO, December 3, 2019 -- Killer whale pods each have their own set of calls they use to communicate, sometimes referred to as the pod's "dialect." By characterizing an individual pod's calls, researchers can track the pod's seasonal movements, gaining a better understanding of the whales' lives.

Jessica Sportelli, at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, studies a pod of relatively unknown killer whales in Pond Inlet, Nunavut, Canada. Because little is currently known about this pod's ecology, Sportelli will describe their repertoire of calls at the 178th Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America, which will take place Dec. 2-6, at the Hotel del Coronado in San Diego.

The talk, "Call discrimination for an unknown pod of killer whales (Orcinus orca) in the Eastern Canadian Arctic," will be presented at 10:05 a.m. Pacific (U.S.) on Tuesday, Dec. 3 as part of a session on low-frequency sound production and passive acoustic monitoring.

Having a unique dialect allows the members of a pod to maintain cohesion and avoid inbreeding by being able to identify other members. Because call repertoires are unique to a pod, understanding them can help scientists observe the pod over time and map their migration behavior.

"Once we know more about where they come from and more about their migration abilities, we can start asking questions like, Why are they leaving their place of origin? What is changing about their place of origin, or what is now lacking in their place of origin that they needed to move in the summer?" said Sportelli.

A predominantly Inuit community, Pond Inlet has seen an increase in killer whales, which may affect the prosperity of indigenous subsistence hunters. Sportelli hopes to obtain acoustic readings of other whale populations around the North Atlantic to compare with the calls at Pond Inlet and build a timeline of the whales' movement.

"It is one piece of the puzzle to understanding the life history of these animals," Sportelli said. "We don't know a lot about North Atlantic killer whales, so any information on them that gives us a fuller picture on how they live their lives is important."

Sportelli's presentation 2aAB8, " Call discrimination for an unknown pod of killer whales (Orcinus orca) in the Eastern Canadian Arctic," will be at 10:05 a.m. PT, Tuesday, Dec. 3, in the Edison room of the Hotel del Coronado in San Diego.
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USEFUL LINKS

Main meeting website: http://acousticalsociety.org/asa-meetings/

Technical program: https://asa2019fall.abstractcentral.com/planner.jsp

Press Room: http://acoustics.org/world-wide-press-room/

WORLDWIDE PRESS ROOM

In the coming weeks, ASA's Worldwide Press Room will be updated with additional tips on dozens of newsworthy stories and with lay language papers, which are 300-500 word summaries of presentations written by scientists for a general audience and accompanied by photos, audio and video. You can visit the site during the meeting at http://acoustics.org/world-wide-press-room/.

PRESS REGISTRATION

We will grant free registration to credentialed journalists and professional freelance journalists. If you are a reporter and would like to attend, contact the AIP Media Line at 301-209-3090. For urgent requests, staff at media@aip.org can also help with setting up interviews and obtaining images, sound clips or background information.

LIVE MEDIA WEBCAST

Press briefings will be webcast live from the conference Tuesday, Dec. 3, in Hospitality Suite 3103 of the Hotel del Coronado in San Diego. Register at https://webcast.aipwebcasting.com/go/asa-dec3-19 to watch the live webcast. The schedule will be posted at the same site as soon as it is available.

ABOUT THE ACOUSTICAL SOCIETY OF AMERICA

The Acoustical Society of America (ASA) is the premier international scientific society in acoustics devoted to the science and technology of sound. Its 7,000 members worldwide represent a broad spectrum of the study of acoustics. ASA publications include The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America (the world's leading journal on acoustics), Acoustics Today magazine, books, and standards on acoustics. The society also holds two major scientific meetings each year. For more information about ASA, visit our website at http://www.acousticalsociety.org.

Acoustical Society of America

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