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Science Serving Maryland's Coasts

Elizabeth Grzyb, American University

Class Year: 

Project Title: 

Acoustical Analysis of Bottlenose Dolphin Signature Whistles Off Ocean City, Maryland


The common bottlenose dolphin, Tursiops truncatus, is a highly social and vocal species that uses a variety of acoustic signals to aid communication, foraging, and orientation. Bottlenose dolphins have the ability to convey identity information via signature whistles—an individually specific whistle that is unique to individual dolphins. These bottlenose dolphin signature whistles play a similar role in identity communication as unique names for individual humans. Based on a bout analysis method of signature whistle identification, we identified signature whistles in audio recordings collected via passive acoustic monitoring between July 2016 and October 2017 off Ocean City, Maryland, U.S.A., within a proposed wind energy area. Through signature whistle analysis we estimated the minimum abundance of dolphins within our detection area as 174 dolphins with the highest number in summer 2016 and the most frequent re-occurrence of individuals during winter 2017. These results can be used to inform assessments of the potential exposure of bottlenose dolphins to high levels of noise associated with offshore wind farm construction.

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Presented at Council for Undergraduate Research Symposium 2018