Author(s): Elena Papale, Marta Azzolin
Genetic studies have shown that there are small but significant differences between the short-beaked common dolphin populations in the Atlantic Ocean and those in the Mediterranean Sea. The short-beaked common dolphin is a highly vocal species with a wide sound production repertoire including whistles. Whistles are continuous, narrowband, frequency-modulated signals that can show geographic variation in dolphin species. This study tests whether the differences, highlighted by genetic studies, are recognisable in the acoustic features of short-beaked common dolphin’s whistles in the two adjacent areas of the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. From a selected sample of good quality whistles (514 recorded in the Atlantic and 193 in the Mediterranean) 10 parameters of duration, frequency and frequency modulation were measured. Comparing data among basins, differences were found for duration and all frequency parameters except for minimum frequency. Modulation parameters showed the highest coefficient of variation. Through discriminant analysis we correctly assigned 75.7% of sounds to their basins. Furthermore, micro-geographic analysis revealed similarity between the sounds recorded around the Azores and the Canary archipelagos and between the Bay of Biscay and the Mediterranean Sea. Results are in agreement with the hypothesis proposed by previous genetic studies that two distinct populations are present, still supposing a gene flow between the basins. This study is the first to compare shortbeaked common dolphin’s whistles of the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean areas.