Sensory Abilities of Cetaceans

Volume 196 of the series NATO ASI Series pp 571-583

Acoustic Behavior of Mysticete Whales

  • Christopher W. ClarkAffiliated withLaboratory of Ornithology Bioacoustics Research Program, Cornell University

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There are eleven species of mysticetes (baleen whales), and sounds have been recorded from all but the pygmy right whale (Caperea marginata). The greatest amount of acoustic information has been gathered for the bowhead (Balaena mysticetus), gray (Eschrichtius robustus), humpback (Megaptera novaeancrliae), and right (Eubalaena australis and E.glacialis) whales, because they are coastal, relatively vocal, and more social among the mysticetes. The more pelagic species, which include the blue (Balaenoptera musculus), fin (Balaenoptera physalus), Bryde’s (Balaenoptera edeni), sei (Balaenoptera borealis), and minke (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) whales, are more difficult to observe and are less vocal than the coastal species. The most recent review of mysticete sounds was presented by Thompson et al. (1979; but see Winn and Perkins, 1976). Herman and Tavolga (1980) discuss mysticete sounds from the perspective of communication. Ridgway and Harrison (1985) provide some further descriptions of sound production for some of the mysticetes, while Payne (1983) presents a number of chapters on specific aspects of acoustic behavior in southern right whales and humpback whales.