Hidden Markov models reveal complexity in the diving behaviour of short-finned pilot whales.
ABSTRACT: Diving behaviour of short-finned pilot whales is often described by two states; deep foraging and shallow, non-foraging dives. However, this simple classification system ignores much of the variation that occurs during subsurface periods. We used multi-state hidden Markov models (HMM) to characterize states of diving behaviour and the transitions between states in short-finned pilot whales. We used three parameters (number of buzzes, maximum dive depth and duration) measured in 259 dives by digital acoustic recording tags (DTAGs) deployed on 20 individual whales off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, USA. The HMM identified a four-state model as the best descriptor of diving behaviour. The state-dependent distributions for the diving parameters showed variation between states, indicative of different diving behaviours. Transition probabilities were considerably higher for state persistence than state switching, indicating that dive types occurred in bouts. Our results indicate that subsurface behaviour in short-finned pilot whales is more complex than a simple dichotomy of deep and shallow diving states, and labelling all subsurface behaviour as deep dives or shallow dives discounts a significant amount of important variation. We discuss potential drivers of these patterns, including variation in foraging success, prey availability and selection, bathymetry, physiological constraints and socially mediated behaviour.
Project description:Vocalisations form a key component of the social interactions and foraging behaviour of toothed whales. We investigated changes in calling and echolocation behaviour of long-finned pilot whales between foraging and non-foraging periods, by combining acoustic recordings and diving depth data from tagged individuals with concurrent surface observations on social behaviour of their group. The pilot whales showed marked vocal variation, specific to foraging and social context. During periods of foraging, pilot whales showed more vocal activity than during non-foraging periods (rest, travel). In addition to the expected increase in echolocation activity, call rates also increased, suggesting that pilot whales communicate more during foraging. Furthermore, calls with multiple inflections occurred more often immediately before and after foraging dives and during the early descent and late ascent phases of foraging dives. However, these calls were almost never detected at diving depths of the tagged whale beyond 350 m. Calls with no or few inflections were produced at all times, irrespective of diving depth of the tagged whale. We discuss possible explanations for the distinct vocal variation associated with foraging periods. In addition, during non-foraging periods, the pilot whales were found to be more silent (no calling or echolocation) in larger, more closely spaced groups. This indicates that increased levels of social cohesion may release the need to stay in touch acoustically.Social toothed whales rely on vocalisations to find prey and interact with conspecifics. Species are often highly vocal and can have elaborate call repertoires. However, it often remains unclear how their repertoire use correlates to specific social and behavioural contexts, which is vital to understand toothed whale foraging strategies and sociality. Combining on-animal tag recordings of diving and acoustic behaviour with observations of social behaviour, we found that pilot whales produce more calls during foraging than during non-foraging periods. Moreover, highly inflected calls were closely associated to the periods around and during foraging dives. This indicates enhanced communication during foraging, which may, for example, enable relocation of conspecifics or sharing of information. Whales reduced their vocal activity (calling and echolocation) at increased levels of social cohesion, indicating that in certain behavioural contexts, closer association (i.e. more closely spaced) may release the need to stay in touch acoustically.
Project description:Cuvier's beaked whales exhibit exceptionally long and deep foraging dives. The species is little studied due to their deep-water, offshore distribution and limited time spent at the surface. We used LIMPET satellite tags to study the diving behaviour of Cuvier's beaked whales off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina from 2014 to 2016. We deployed 11 tags, recording 3242 h of behaviour data, encompassing 5926 dives. Dive types were highly bimodal; deep dives (greater than 800 m, n = 1408) had a median depth of 1456 m and median duration of 58.9 min; shallow dives (50-800 m, n = 4518) were to median depths of 280 m with a median duration of 18.7 min. Most surface intervals were very short (median 2.2 min), but all animals occasionally performed extended surface intervals. We found no diel differences in dive depth or the percentage of time spent deep diving, but whales spent significantly more time near the surface at night. Other populations of this species exhibit similar dive patterns, but with regional differences in depth, duration and inter-dive intervals. Satellite-linked tags allow for the collection of long periods of dive records, including the occurrence of anomalous behaviours, bringing new insights into the lives of these deep divers.
Project description:During foraging dives, sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) produce long series of regular clicks at 0.5-2 s intervals interspersed with rapid-click buzzes called "creaks". Sound, depth and orientation recording Dtags were attached to 23 whales in the Ligurian Sea and Gulf of Mexico to test whether the behaviour of diving sperm whales supports the hypothesis that creaks are produced during prey capture. Sperm whales spent most of their bottom time within one or two depth bands, apparently feeding in vertically stratified prey layers. Creak rates were highest during the bottom phase: 99.8% of creaks were produced in the deepest 50% of dives, 57% in the deepest 15% of dives. Whales swam actively during the bottom phase, producing a mean of 12.5 depth inflections per dive. A mean of 32% of creaks produced during the bottom phase occurred within 10 s of an inflection (13x more than chance). Sperm whales actively altered their body orientation throughout the bottom phase with significantly increased rates of change during creaks, reflecting increased manoeuvring. Sperm whales increased their bottom foraging time when creak rates were higher. These results all strongly support the hypothesis that creaks are an echolocation signal adapted for foraging, analogous to terminal buzzes in taxonomically diverse echolocating species.
Project description:Here, we describe the diving behavior of sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) using the Advanced Dive Behavior (ADB) tag, which records depth data at 1-Hz resolution and GPS-quality locations for over 1 month, before releasing from the whale for recovery. A total of 27 ADB tags were deployed on sperm whales in the central Gulf of California, Mexico, during spring 2007 and 2008, of which 10 were recovered for data download. Tracking durations of all tags ranged from 0 to 34.5 days (median = 2.3 days), and 0.6 to 26.6 days (median = 5.0 days) for recovered tags. Recovered tags recorded a median of 50.8 GPS-quality locations and 42.6 dives per day. Dive summary metrics were generated for archived dives and were subsequently classified into six categories using hierarchical cluster analysis. A mean of 77% of archived dives per individual were one of four dive categories with median Maximum Dive Depth >290 m (V-shaped, Mid-water, Benthic, or Variable), likely associated with foraging. Median Maximum Dive Depth was <30 m for the other two categories (Short- and Long-duration shallow dives), likely representing socializing or resting behavior. Most tagged whales remained near the tagging area during the tracking period, but one moved north of Isla Tiburón, where it appeared to regularly dive to, and travel along the seafloor. Three whales were tagged on the same day in 2007 and subsequently traveled in close proximity (<1 km) for 2 days. During this period, the depth and timing of their dives were not coordinated, suggesting they were foraging on a vertically heterogeneous prey field. The multiweek dive records produced by ADB tags enabled us to generate a robust characterization of the diving behavior, activity budget, and individual variation for an important predator of the mesopelagos over temporal and spatial scales not previously possible.
Project description:Cuvier's beaked whales (Ziphius cavirostris) have stranded in association with mid-frequency active sonar (MFAS) use, and though the causative mechanism linking these events remains unclear, it is believed to be behaviourally mediated. To determine whether MFAS use was associated with behavioural changes in this species, satellite tags were used to record the diving and movements of 16 Cuvier's beaked whales for up to 88 days in a region of frequent MFAS training off the coast of Southern California. Tag data were combined with summarized records of concurrent bouts of high-power, surface-ship and mid-power, helicopter-deployed MFAS use, along with other potential covariates, in generalized additive mixed-effects models. Deep dives, shallow dives and surface intervals tended to become longer during MFAS use, with some variation associated with the total amount of overlapping MFAS during the behaviour. These changes in dives and surface intervals contributed to a longer interval between deep dives, a proxy for foraging disruption in this species. Most responses intensified with proximity and were more pronounced during mid-power than high-power MFAS use at comparable distances within approximately 50?km, despite the significantly lower source level of mid-power MFAS. However, distance-mediated responses to high-power MFAS, and increased deep dive intervals during mid-power MFAS, were evident up to approximately 100?km away.
Project description:Air-breathing marine predators that target sub-surface prey have to balance the energetic benefit of foraging against the time, energetic and physiological costs of diving. Here we use on-animal data loggers to assess whether such trade-offs can be revealed by the breathing rates (BR) and timing of breaths in long-finned pilot whales (Globicephela melas). We used the period immediately following foraging dives in particular, for which respiratory behavior can be expected to be optimized for gas exchange. Breath times and fluke strokes were detected using onboard sensors (pressure, 3-axis acceleration) attached to animals using suction cups. The number and timing of breaths were quantified in non-linear mixed models that incorporated serial correlation and individual as a random effect. We found that pilot whales increased their BR in the 5-10 min period prior to, and immediately following, dives that exceeded 31 m depth. While pre-dive BRs did not vary with dive duration, the initial post-dive BR was linearly correlated with duration of >2 min dives, with BR then declining exponentially. Apparent net diving costs were 1.7 (SE 0.2) breaths per min of diving (post-dive number of breaths, above pre-dive breathing rate unrelated to dive recovery). Every fluke stroke was estimated to cost 0.086 breaths, which amounted to 80-90% average contribution of locomotion to the net diving costs. After accounting for fluke stroke rate, individuals in the small body size class took a greater number of breaths per diving minute. Individuals reduced their breathing rate (from the rate expected by diving behavior) by 13-16% during playbacks of killer whale sounds and their first exposure to 1-2 kHz naval sonar, indicating similar responses to interspecific competitor/predator and anthropogenic sounds. Although we cannot rule out individuals increasing their per-breath O2 uptake to match metabolic demand, our results suggest that behavioral responses to experimental sound exposures were not associated with increased metabolic rates in a stress response, but metabolic rates instead appear to decrease. Our results support the hypothesis that maximal performance leads to predictable (optimized) breathing patterns, which combined with further physiological measurements could improve proxies of field metabolic rates and per-stroke energy costs from animal-borne behavior data.
Project description:Echolocating toothed whales produce powerful clicks pneumatically to detect prey in the deep sea where this long-range sensory channel makes them formidable top predators. However, air supplies for sound production compress with depth following Boyle's law suggesting that deep-diving whales must use very small air volumes per echolocation click to facilitate continuous sensory flow in foraging dives. Here we test this hypothesis by analysing click-induced acoustic resonances in the nasal air sacs, recorded by biologging tags. Using 27000 clicks from 102 dives of 23 tagged pilot whales (Globicephala macrorhynchus), we show that click production requires only 50?µL of air/click at 500?m depth increasing gradually to 100?µL at 1000?m. With such small air volumes, the metabolic cost of sound production is on the order of 40?J per dive which is a negligible fraction of the field metabolic rate. Nonetheless, whales must make frequent pauses in echolocation to recycle air between nasal sacs. Thus, frugal use of air and periodic recycling of very limited air volumes enable pilot whales, and likely other toothed whales, to echolocate cheaply and almost continuously throughout foraging dives, providing them with a strong sensory advantage in diverse aquatic habitats.
Project description:Diving behaviour of narwhals is still largely unknown. We use Hidden Markov models (HMMs) to describe the diving behaviour of a narwhal and fit the models to a three-dimensional response vector of maximum dive depth, duration of dives and post-dive surface time of 8,609 dives measured in East Greenland over 83 days, an extraordinarily long and rich data set. Narwhal diving patterns have not been analysed like this before, but in studies of other whale species, response variables have been assumed independent. We extend the existing models to allow for dependence between state distributions, and show that the dependence has an impact on the conclusions drawn about the diving behaviour. We try several HMMs with 2, 3 or 4 states, and with independent and dependent log-normal and gamma distributions, respectively, and different covariates to characterize dive patterns. In particular, diurnal patterns in diving behaviour is inferred, by using periodic B-splines with boundary knots in 0 and 24 hours.
Project description:Marine predators adapt their hunting techniques to locate and capture prey in response to their surrounding environment. However, little is known about how certain strategies influence foraging success and efficiency. Due to the miniaturisation of animal tracking technologies, a single individual can be equipped with multiple data loggers to obtain multi-scale tracking information. With the addition of animal-borne video data loggers, it is possible to provide context-specific information for movement data obtained over the video recording periods. Through a combination of video data loggers, accelerometers, GPS and depth recorders, this study investigated the influence of habitat, sex and the presence of other predators on the foraging success and efficiency of the endangered African penguin, <i>Spheniscus demersus</i>, from two colonies in Algoa Bay, South Africa. Due to limitations in the battery life of video data loggers, a machine learning model was developed to detect prey captures across full foraging trips. The model was validated using prey capture signals detected in concurrently recording accelerometers and animal-borne cameras and was then applied to detect prey captures throughout the full foraging trip of each individual. Using GPS and bathymetry information to inform the position of dives, individuals were observed to perform both pelagic and benthic diving behaviour. Females were generally more successful on pelagic dives than males, suggesting a trade-off between manoeuvrability and physiological diving capacity. By contrast, males were more successful in benthic dives, at least for Bird Island (BI) birds, possibly due to their larger size compared to females, allowing them to exploit habitat deeper and for longer durations. Both males at BI and both sexes at St Croix (SC) exhibited similar benthic success rates. This may be due to the comparatively shallower seafloor around SC, which could increase the likelihood of females capturing prey on benthic dives. Observation of camera data indicated individuals regularly foraged with a range of other predators including penguins and other seabirds, predatory fish (sharks and tuna) and whales. The presence of other seabirds increased individual foraging success, while predatory fish reduced it, indicating competitive exclusion by larger heterospecifics. This study highlights novel benthic foraging strategies in African penguins and suggests that individuals could buffer the effects of changes to prey availability in response to climate change. Furthermore, although group foraging was prevalent in the present study, its influence on foraging success depends largely on the type of heterospecifics present.
Project description:Understanding the links between foraging behaviour and habitat use of key species is essential to addressing fundamental questions about trophic interactions and ecosystem functioning. Eight female grey seals (Halichoerus grypus) were equipped with time-depth recorders linked to Fastloc GPS tags following the annual moult in southwest Ireland. Individual dives were coupled with environmental correlates to investigate the habitat use and dive behaviour of free-ranging seals. Dives were characterised as either pelagic, benthic, or shallow (where errors in location and charted water depth made differentiating between pelagic and benthic dives unreliable). Sixty-nine percent of dives occurring in water >50 m were benthic. Pelagic dives were more common at night than during the day. Seals performed more pelagic dives over fine sediments (mud/sand), and more benthic dives when foraging over more three-dimensionally complex rock substrates. We used Markov chain analysis to determine the probability of transiting between dive states. A low probability of repeat pelagic dives suggests that pelagic prey were encountered en route to the seabed. This approach could be applied to make more accurate predictions of habitat use in data-poor areas, and investigate contentious issues such as resource overlap and competition between top predators and fisheries, essential for the effective conservation of these key marine species.