National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2018

Spatial and temporal trends in fin whale vocalizations recorded in the NE Pacific Ocean between 2003-2013

Weirathmueller, M.J., K.M. Stafford, W.S.D. Wilcock, R.P. Dziak, and A.M. Tréhu

PLoS ONE, 12(10), e0186127, doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0186127 (2017)

In order to study the long-term stability of fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus) singing behavior, the frequency and inter-pulse interval of fin whale 20 Hz vocalizations were observed over 10 years from 2003–2013 from bottom mounted hydrophones and seismometers in the northeast Pacific Ocean. The instrument locations extended from 40°N to 48°N and 130°W to 125°W with water depths ranging from 1500–4000 m. The inter-pulse interval (IPI) of fin whale song sequences was observed to increase at a rate of 0.54 seconds/year over the decade of observation. During the same time period, peak frequency decreased at a rate of 0.17 Hz/year. Two primary call patterns were observed. During the earlier years, the more commonly observed pattern had a single frequency and single IPI. In later years, a doublet pattern emerged, with two dominant frequencies and IPIs. Many call sequences in the intervening years appeared to represent a transitional state between the two patterns. The overall trend was consistent across the entire geographical span, although some regional differences exist. Understanding changes in acoustic behavior over long time periods is needed to help establish whether acoustic characteristics can be used to help determine population identity in a widely distributed, difficult to study species such as the fin whale.

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