Characterizing chilean blue whale vocalizations with DTAGs: A test of using tag accelerometers for caller identification

Mark R. Saddler, Alessandro Bocconcelli, Leigh S. Hickmott, Gustavo Chiang, Rafaela Landea-Briones, Paulina A. Bahamonde, Gloria Howes, Paolo S. Segre, Laela S. Sayigh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Vocal behavior of blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus) in the Gulf of Corcovado, Chile, was analysed using both audio and accelerometer data from digital acoustic recording tags (DTAGs). Over the course of three austral summers (2014, 2015 and 2016), seventeen tags were deployed, yielding 124 h of data. We report the occurrence of Southeast Pacific type 2 (SEP2) calls, which exhibit peak frequencies, durations and timing consistent with previous recordings made using towed and moored hydrophones. We also describe tonal downswept (D) calls, which have not been previously described for this population. As being able to accurately assign vocalizations to individual whales is fundamental for studying communication and for estimating population densities from call rates, we further examine the feasibility of using high-resolution DTAG accelerometers to identify low-frequency calls produced by tagged blue whales. We crosscorrelated acoustic signals with simultaneous tri-axial accelerometer readings in order to analyse the phase match as well as the amplitude of accelerometer signals associated with low-frequency calls, which provides a quantitative method of determining if a call is associated with a detectable acceleration signal. Our results suggest that vocalizations from nearby individuals are also capable of registering accelerometer signals in the tagged whale's DTAG record. We cross-correlate acceleration vectors between calls to explore the possibility of using signature acceleration patterns associated with sounds produced within the tagged whale as a new method of identifying which accelerometer-detectable calls originate from the tagged animal.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4119-4129
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number22
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Acoustic behavior
  • Balaenoptera musculus
  • Cross-correlation
  • D call
  • Downsweep call
  • DTAG

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Insect Science


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