Minke whale acoustic behavior and multi-year seasonal and diel vocalization patterns in Massachusetts Bay, USA

Denise Risch, Christopher W. Clark, Peter J. Dugan, Marian Popescu, Ursula Siebert, Sofie M. Van Parijs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Citations (Scopus)


Passive acoustic monitoring (PAM) is a rapidly growing field, providing valuable insights in marine ecology. The approach allows for long-term, species-specific monitoring over a range of spatial scales. For many baleen whales fundamental information on seasonal occurrence and distribution is still missing. In this study, pulse trains produced by the North Atlantic minke whale, a highly mobile and cryptic species, are used to examine its seasonality, diel vocalization patterns and spatial distribution throughout the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary (SBNMS), USA. Three and a half years (2006, 2007 to 2010) of near continuous passive acoustic data were analyzed using automated detection methods. Random forests and cluster analyses grouped pulse trains into 3 main categories (slow-down, constant and speed-up), with several sub- types. Slow-down pulse trains were the most commonly recorded call category. Minke whale pulse train occurrence was highly seasonal across all years. Detections were made from August to November, with 88% occurring in September and October. No detections were recorded in January and February, and only few from March to June. Minke whale pulse trains showed a dis- tinct diel pattern, with a nighttime peak from approximately 20:00 to 01:00 h Eastern Standard Time (EST). The highest numbers of pulse trains were detected to the east of Stellwagen Bank, suggesting that minke whales travel preferably in deeper waters along the outer edge of the sanc- tuary. These data show that minke whales consistently use Stellwagen Bank as part of their migra- tion route to and from the feeding grounds. Unlike other baleen whales in this area they do not appear to have a persistent year-round acoustic presence. KEY
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)279-295
Number of pages17
JournalMarine Ecology-Progress Series
Publication statusPublished - 28 Aug 2013


  • Balaenoptera acutorostrata
  • Diel variation
  • Minke whale
  • Passive acoustic monitoring
  • Pulse train
  • Seasonality
  • Vocalizations


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