Humpback whale singing activity off the Goan coast in the Eastern Arabian Sea

posted on 04.04.2018 by Shyam Kumar Madhusudhana, Bishwajit Chakraborty, G. Latha

For over two decades, passive acoustic monitoring (PAM) methods have been successfully employed around the world for studying aquatic megafauna. PAM-driven studies in Indian waters have so far been relatively very scarce. Furthermore, cetacean populations inhabiting the north western Indian Ocean are far less studied than those in many other regions around the world. This work likely constitutes the first systematic study of the vocal repertoire of humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) at a near-shore site along the western coast of India. Analysis of the observed vocalizations provides an insight into the behaviour of the species. This is significant as it assists in developing a better understanding of the habitat use of the non-migratory Arabian Sea humpback whale population. In contrast, other breeding populations such as those around the North Atlantic, South Pacific and Australia have been relatively well studied. Underwater passive acoustic data were collected during March 2017 using an autonomous logger at a shallow-water site off the eastern edge of Grande Island off the coast of Goa. Humpback whale vocalizations were found to occur over multiple days in the recordings. Time–frequency contours of individual units of vocalization were extracted with the aid of an automatic detection technique and the characteristics of the units were measured. Further, successive units were analysed for formation of phrases and themes. Reconstruction of putative songs from the identified units and themes was not possible due to the limitations imposed by the nature of data collection. Detailed analyses of units, phrases and themes are presented.