The acoustic behaviour of resident bottlenose dolphins in Fiordland, New Zealand
Boisseau, Oliver John
The bottlenose dolphin Tursiops truncatus is an extremely well-studied species. We have an extensive knowledge of certain aspects of their vocal behaviour, particularly from captive contexts. Bottlenose dolphins produce a rich tapestry of vocalisations, however, which have historically received minimal attention. Resident groups of bottlenose dolphins frequent the waterways of Fiordland in southwest New Zealand. These deep, sheltered fiords are ideally suited for acoustic studies. This thesis presents the first detailed study of bottlenose dolphin acoustics in New Zealand. Both narrowband and broadband systems were used to record the vocalisations of two resident groups. Effort was distributed evenly over three years for both Doubtful Sound and Milford Sound. From 875 recordings, I proposed a repertoire of 15 discrete calls. These categories were subsequently compared using parameters measured from almost 2000 individual vocalisations. Various multivariate techniques revealed some redundancy in the proposed repertoire, and it was subsequently reduced to 12 calls. The 12 call repertoire was compared between the potentially interbreeding populations of Doubtful Sound and Milford Sound. Fiord-specificity was revealed for many of the calls, particularly the sequenced calls and whistles. These differences suggest bottlenose dolphins use dialects, in keeping with studies of killer whales and sperm whales. As Fiordland dolphins are out of sight for 90% of the time, acoustic techniques allow inference in to subsurface behaviour. I investigated sequential relationships among sounds and between sounds and behaviours. Many calls were strongly implicated in social interactions. The vocalisations ratchet, orca and the sequenced calls were associated with periods of conflict. A number of the click-based calls were linked to diving and presumed foraging events. Inference on the functional significance of sounds allowed an interpretation of habitat use. This appears to be the first study relating the entire vocal repertoire of a cetacean population to a complete home range. Areas important for socialising, foraging and resting are proposed. Local management decisions may be well served by this information. This study uses benign techniques to build on previous research in Fiordland, and adds a new dimension to the study of these populations.
Advisor: Dawson, Steve
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: Marine Science
Publisher: University of Otago
Research Type: Thesis