Polar Biology

, Volume 42, Issue 4, pp 657–674 | Cite as

Acoustic occurrence and behavior of ribbon seals (Histriophoca fasciata) in the Bering, Chukchi, and Beaufort seas

  • Héloïse Frouin-MouyEmail author
  • Xavier Mouy
  • Catherine L. Berchok
  • Susanna B. Blackwell
  • Kathleen M. Stafford
Original Paper


Due to the difficulty of studying ice seals in their natural environment, distribution and movement patterns of ribbon seals (Histriophoca fasciata) over large spatio-temporal scales are poorly understood. In this study, we analyzed their distribution patterns in the Bering, Chukchi, and Beaufort seas, using passive acoustic data collected between August 2012 and July 2013 at 53 recording sites. Ribbon seal downsweeps were found using spectrogram correlation autodetection, at 30 of these recording sites. These detections were further manually analyzed to investigate the vocal repertoire and quantify the diel pattern in acoustic presence. We found that the Beaufort Sea shelf and the northern Bering Strait/southern Chukchi Sea are ecologically important for ribbon seals during the open-water season. Our results suggest that the northeastern Chukchi Sea serves as part of a migration corridor to and from the Chukchi Plateau and/or Beaufort Sea. In the Bering Sea, most detections occurred from February to June. Vocal activity was higher at nighttime than during the daytime prior to the peak calling period, while during the peak calling period, diel rhythm became less pronounced. The number of calls, proportional use of downsweeps, and bandwidth of downsweeps (estimated broadband source level 170–178 dB re 1 μPa-m) increased during the breeding period, from March to June, peaking in May. An additional call type, the “shuffle”, was identified in this study. These results improve our understanding of the migration, occurrence, and acoustic behavior of ribbon seals in the Bering, Chukchi, and Beaufort seas.


Ribbon seal Histriophoca fasciata Passive acoustic monitoring Bering sea Chukchi sea Beaufort sea 



In the Chukchi Sea, the data acquisition program was funded jointly by Shell Exploration & Production Company (Dr. A.M. Macrander), ConocoPhillips Company (C. Rea), and Statoil USA E&P, Inc (J. Fenton). The data collection by Greeneridge Sciences in the Beaufort Sea was jointly supported by Shell Exploration & Production Company (Dr. A.M. Macrander) and ION Geophysical (J. Gagliardi). The 2012 science program in the Chukchi Sea was managed by Olgoonik-Fairweather LCC. We thank the captains and crew of all vessels, and all mooring technicians involved in those data collections for assistance with deployments, retrievals, and shipping of the acoustic recorders. The University of Washington instrument was funded by the USA National Science Foundation OPP-0855828. The NOAA data were BOEM-funded (detector development: North Pacific Right Whale Study, IA#M07RG13267, C. Monnett, C. Coon; main analysis: ARCWEST project, IA#M12PG00021, C. Monnett, J. Denton, and C. Fairfield). We thank three reviewers whose comments improved the manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


The findings and conclusions in the paper are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the National Marine Fisheries Service, NOAA. Reference to trade names does not imply endorsement by the National Marine Fisheries Service, NOAA.

Supplementary material

300_2019_2462_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (839 kb)
Electronic supplementary material 1 (PDF 839 kb)
300_2019_2462_MOESM2_ESM.mp4 (7.5 mb)
Online Resource 2. Ribbon seal acoustic occurrence from 1 August 2012 through 31 July 2013 at the 53 acoustic recorder sites with daily sea ice extent (data files obtained from the ftp site on the directory). Grey dot: Acoustic recorder operational. Green dot: Ribbon seal acoustically detected. (MP4 7725 kb)
300_2019_2462_MOESM3_ESM.wav (267 kb)
Online Resource 3. Yowl, growl, grunt and shuffle sequence from Figure 3 (Inset) (WAV 267 kb)
300_2019_2462_MOESM4_ESM.wav (70 kb)
Online Resource 4. Downsweep from Figure 3 (WAV 70 kb)
300_2019_2462_MOESM5_ESM.wav (32 kb)
Online Resource 5. Roar from Figure 3 (WAV 32 kb)
300_2019_2462_MOESM6_ESM.wav (543 kb)
Online Resource 6. Hiss from Figure 3 (WAV 543 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.JASCO Applied Sciences LtdVictoriaCanada
  2. 2.Marine Mammal LaboratoryNOAA/AFSCSeattleUSA
  3. 3.Greeneridge Sciences, IncSanta BarbaraUSA
  4. 4.Applied Physics LaboratoryUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA

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