Vocalizations of the North Atlantic pilot whale (Globicephala melas) as related to behavioral contexts
Vocalizations of free-ranging North Atlantic pilot whales were studied in different behavioral contexts to gain insight into the function and biological significance of different sound types. Simple whistles (with no frequency inflections) were heard more frequently when whales were “milling,” a restful behavior type. During “surface active” behavior, energetic, often coordinated activity probably representing feeding, many sound types, especially complex whistles (with more frequency inflections) and pulsed sounds, occurred with greater frequency than when this behavior was absent. Greater numbers of most whistle types were produced when whales were spread over a larger area and when more subgroups were present. Thus, in pilot whales, there is a significant relationship between their sounds and their behavior, with vocalizations possibly serving to maintain contact and coordinate movements of the herd.