Sound production and associated behavior of tagged fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus) in the Southern California Bight
Background: For marine animals, acoustic communication is critical for many life functions, yet individual calling
behavior is poorly understood for most large whale species. These topics are important for understanding whale
social behavior and can also serve as a baseline for behavioral studies assessing whale response to disturbance. Using
a new technique for identifying the calling individual, we measured body orientation, dive behavior, and surface
social behavior in relation to call production for tagged fin whales in Southern California.
Results: Behavioral metrics associated with elevated call rates included shallow maximum dive depths (10–15 m), little
body movement, negative pitch in body orientation, and moderate body roll. Calling whales were also more likely
to be traveling than milling, in groups rather than solitary, and without change in group size compared to non-calling
Conclusions: These are the first descriptions of body posture and depths at which fin whales are most likely to call,
and some possible sound propagation and/or anatomical reasons for these results are considered. The call behavior
characterizations presented here will help in predicting calling behavior from surface behavior, informing interpretation
of passive acoustic data, and determining the effects of anthropogenic sound on whales in Southern California.