Acoustics and the Behavior of Sperm Whales

  • William A. Watkins
Part of the NATO Advanced Study Institutes Series book series (volume 28)


The first good recordings of underwater sperm whale sounds that we have were made 27 years ago (22 April 1952, R/V Caryn at 38°29′N, 69°29′W) and five years later the sounds were identified definitely and described (Worthington and Schevill 1957). At every opportunity since then, we have stopped with these whales and listened underwater (Watkins 1977). Repeated observations have gradually sorted out many of the sounds. The overlapping clatter of click series that are usually heard in the presence of these whales have given way with time to acoustic sequences that apparently have characteristics identifiable with individuals. The unorganized welter of sound can be simplified to series of pulses that are related and that can sometimes be traced for hours. Whales underwater have been located and tracked by their own sounds. Yet with all this, the sounds are still not well enough correlated with the whales’ actions to provide anything but glimpses into the role that acoustics plays in the behavior of sperm whales.


Sound Source Sperm Whale Acoustic Behavior Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Underwater Sound 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1980

Authors and Affiliations

  • William A. Watkins
    • 1
  1. 1.Woods Hole Oceanographic InstitutionWoods HoleMassachusettsUSA

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