Date of Award

Winter 12-22-2021

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)




Parks, Susan E.


acoustics, behavioral context, humpback, social communication, social context, surface foraging

Subject Categories

Biology | Life Sciences


Humpback whales are known for the plastic and variable nature of their acoustic communication, social interactions, and foraging behaviors. Distinct foraging strategies are used to capture different prey types at the surface and on the seafloor. Sounds produced during foraging are thought to facilitate intraspecific social communication. Previous studies have identified specific sound types produced by humpbacks associated exclusively with benthic foraging strategies, suggesting functions related to foraging behavior. In this study, we use suction cup acoustic tags (DTAGs) deployed on humpbacks in the western North Atlantic from 2006-2009 to investigate the social sound production associated with surface foraging ecology, distinguishing three distinct call types used across this foraging strategy: the paired burst bout, thwop, and bark sequence. We assess the social context of sound and present an analysis of the acoustic parameters of these sound types during surface foraging behavior. Our results suggest that these call types were not required nor indicative of surface foraging for this population. Further analysis indicates that these call types are likely used for social communication during surface foraging, as opposed to coordinating group foraging behaviors or manipulating the behavior of the prey. These findings will advance knowledge of humpback foraging behaviors, furthering understanding of the acoustic and behavioral plasticity used to adapt foraging to a changing environment. Further, the ability to determine behavioral state and foraging strategy based on the sounds vocalized has important implications for future management strategies.


Open Access

Included in

Biology Commons



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