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'On site' programmes: BIOACOUSTICS. Study of cetaceans in the western Mediterranean

Bioacoustics provides an extraordinarily powerful tool for studying marine mammals and, in combination with traditional sightings, allows us to increase our knowledge on the behaviour of the different species of cetaceans that inhabit our coasts and of those that use them in their migratory passage.
'On site' programmes: BIOACOUSTICS. Study of cetaceans in the western Mediterranean

Here you can listen some of the sounds picked up by researchers:

Sounds of fin whale (this sound can not be heard by humans because it is very low-frequency ultrasound, so the speed has been increased by 8 to make it more high-pitched and that could be audible).

Sounds of sperm whale

Sounds of long-finned pilot whale

In the waters off the Valencian coast we can normally find 8 different species of cetaceans: the fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus), sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus), Cuvier’s beaked whale (Ziphius cavirostris), long-finned pilot whale (Globicephala melas), Risso’s dolphin (Grampus griseus), common bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus), striped dolphin (Stenella coeruleoalba) and the short-beaked common dolphin (Delphinus delphis).

However, despite the variety of cetaceans that are found in our waters, the information that we have on them is very limited. One of the reasons for this lack of knowledge lies in the difficulty of observing these animals, given that only a few of them are sighted when they rest or rise to the surface of the sea to breathe. This circumstance poses a serious problem to studying them, as a huge amount of time and resources are employed in searching for them and, once they have been located, they can only be observed for the brief moments that they spend on the surface.

One of the most outstanding characteristics of these animals lies in their general use of sound, both to communicate with each other and to find their way in the sea through the use of echolocation. This abundant use of sound, together with the properties of propagating sound in the water (sound travels approximately 5 times faster in seawater than in the air) makes these acoustic systems the best tool for detecting them. In recent years, the development of acoustic systems that allow us to increase our knowledge on the ecology of this zoological group has progressed enormously. The Oceanogràfic’s Research Department has been working, from the moment it was set up, on bioacoustics as its most important line of research.

Seasonal presence of the common bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) detected in the Marine Reserves of the Valencia Region using acoustic devices.

Since 2007 the Oceanogràfic’s Research Department has been carrying out a study on the seasonal presence and habitat use of the common bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) in the Marine reserves of the Valencia Region, using passive acoustic detectors called T-PODs.

Presence of the fin whale

The fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus) is the second biggest animal on the planet after the blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus), and yet, the movements that they make even in a sea as small as the Mediterranean are little known. Thanks to the experience acquired in the field of bioacoustics, the Oceanogràfic’s Research Department is undertaking a programme to detect the presence of these large cetaceans in their migratory movements through the western Mediterranean by detecting the sounds emitted by these animals.

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