Behaviour 2019
Investigating the social context of sound in the surface foraging strategies of humpback whales
Sarah G. Weiss1, David N. Wiley2, Susan E. Parks1. 1Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY, United States; 2Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Scituate, MA, United States

Humpback whales are known for the plasticity 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 sound 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. These findings will advance knowledge of humpback foraging behaviors, furthering understanding of the acoustic plasticity used to adapt foraging to a changing behavioral and social environment.