Acoustic divergence between bottlenose dolphin whistles from the Central–Eastern North Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea

Abstract

To improve our understanding of the complex genetic and ecological structure of bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) populations, we examined the acoustic features of communication signals from two geographically contiguous areas: the Central–Eastern North Atlantic and the Mediterranean Sea. Variations in the whistles were evaluated for four locations. Ten signal parameters were measured and used to statistically differentiate between the areas. Over 79 % of sightings were correctly classified by discriminant function analysis, confirming an acoustic differentiation between the two basins. The results of cluster analysis using the mean values of the parameters for each sighting showed that the three easternmost sightings from the Mediterranean and one sighting from the Canary archipelago formed a separate cluster from the rest of the Atlantic. The two sightings from the Alboran Sea in the west Mediterranean were grouped with the Atlantic recordings. There was more variability in whistles from the Atlantic Ocean consistent with data from genetic and photo-identification studies that document resident and non-resident animals in the area. The results suggest that the Alboran area may be inhabited by animals differentiated from the rest of the Mediterranean basin as a result of habitat features.

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Acknowledgments

The authors are grateful to IFAW for its contribution in the data collection. Without its support, this project could not have been accomplished. Data collection and processing in the Azores was funded by Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT), Direcção Regional Para a Ciência, Tecnologia e Comunicações (DRCTC), FEDER, the Competitiveness Factors Operational (COMPETE), QREN European Social Fund and Proconvergência Açores Program through research projects PTDC/MAR/74071/2006 and M2.1.2/F/012/2011. The authors acknowledge funds provided by FCT to LARSyS Associated Laboratory and IMAR-University of the Azores/the Thematic Area E of the Strategic Project (OE and compete) and by the DRCTC–Government of the Azores pluriannual funding. MAS was supported by an FCT postdoctoral grant (SFRH/BPD/29841/2006), IC and RP were supported by FCT doctoral grants (respectively SFRH/BD/41192/2007 and SFRH/BD/32520/2006). RP received a research grant from the Azores Regional Fund for Science and Technology (M3.1.5/F/115/2012). Data collection by SECAC was funded by the EU LIFE programme—project LIFE INDEMARES (LIFE 07/NAT/E/000732)—and the Fundación Biodiversidad under the Spanish Ministry of Environment, Rural and Marine Affairs (project ZEC-TURSIOPS).

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None of the authors has any conflict of interest with the contents of the manuscript.

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The work has been carried out without putting at risk endangered populations, species or habitats in agreements with the “Guidelines for the Use of Animals in Research.”

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Correspondence to E. Papale.

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Papale, E., Azzolin, M., Cascão, I. et al. Acoustic divergence between bottlenose dolphin whistles from the Central–Eastern North Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea. acta ethol 17, 155–165 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10211-013-0172-2

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Keywords

  • Bottlenose dolphin
  • Intra-specific differences
  • Mediterranean
  • Atlantic
  • Whistles