Journal of Ethology

, Volume 31, Issue 2, pp 141-149

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Exchange of “signature” calls in captive belugas (Delphinapterus leucas)

  • Tadamichi MorisakaAffiliated withWildlife Research Center of Kyoto University Email author 
  • , Yayoi YoshidaAffiliated withWildlife Research Center of Kyoto University
  • , Yuichiro AkuneAffiliated withThe Port of Nagoya Public Aquarium
  • , Hideki MishimaAffiliated withThe Port of Nagoya Public Aquarium
  • , Sayo NishimotoAffiliated withThe Port of Nagoya Public Aquarium


Belugas (Delphinapterus leucas) produce echolocation clicks, burst pulses, and whistles. The sounds of 3 captive belugas were recorded using 2 hydrophones at the Port of Nagoya Public Aquarium. There were stable individual differences in the pulse patterning of one type of pulsed sounds (PS1 call), suggesting that belugas use these as “signature” calls. Eighty-eight percent of PS1 calls initiated PS1 calls from other animals within 1 s. PS1 calls repeated by the same individual occurred primarily when other belugas did not respond within 1 s of the first call. Belugas delayed successive PS1 calls when other belugas responded with a PS1 call within 1 s. There was no clear temporal pattern for whistles. It appears that the time limit for responding to calls is 1 s after the initial call. If other individuals do not respond to the PS1 call of a beluga within 1 s, belugas tend to repeat the call and wait for a response. The results of this study suggest that the belugas exchange their individual signatures by using PS1 calls, in a manner similar to that of signature whistles used by bottlenose dolphins.


Vocal exchange Beluga Delphinapterus leucas Contact call Signature