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Foraging on squid: the sperm whale mid-range sonar
André, M.; Johansson, T.; Delory, E.; van der Schaar, M. (2007). Foraging on squid: the sperm whale mid-range sonar. J. Mar. Biol. Ass. U.K. Spec. Issue 87(1): 59-67.
In: Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. Cambridge University Press/Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom: Cambridge. ISSN 0025-3154, more
Peer reviewed article  

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  • André, M., more
  • Johansson, T., more
  • Delory, E.
  • van der Schaar, M.

    The sonar capabilities of the sperm whale, Physeter macrocephalus, have been the subject of speculation for a long time. While the usual clicks of this species are considered to support mid-range echolocation, no physical characteristics of the signal have clearly confirmed this assumption nor have they explained how sperm whales forage on squid. The recent data on sperm whale on-axis recordings have allowed us to simulate the propagation of a 15 kHz pulse as well as its received echoes from different targets, taking into account the reflections from the bottom and the sea surface. The analysis was performed in a controlled environment where the oceanographic parameters and the acoustic background could be modified. We also conducted experimental measurements of cephalopod target strength (TS) (Loligo vulgaris and Sepia officinalis) to further investigate and confirm the TS predictions from the geometric scattering equations. Based on the results of the computer simulations and the TS experimental measurements (TS squid=-36.3±2.5 dB), we were able to determine the minimum requirements for sperm whale sonar, i.e. range and directional hearing, to locate a single 24.5 cm long squid, considered to be (from stomach contents) the major size component of the sperm whale diet. Here, we present the development of the analysis which confirms that sperm whale usual clicks are appropriate to serve a mid-range sonar function, allowing this species to forage on individual organisms with low sound-reflectivity at ranges of several hundreds of metres.

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