'Megapclicks': acoustic click trains and buzzes produced during night-time foraging of humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae)

Biol Lett. 2007 Oct 22;3(5):467-70. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2007.0281.


Humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) exhibit a variety of foraging behaviours, but neither they nor any baleen whale are known to produce broadband clicks in association with feeding, as do many odontocetes. We recorded underwater behaviour of humpback whales in a northwest Atlantic feeding area using suction-cup attached, multi-sensor, acoustic tags (DTAGs). Here we describe the first recordings of click production associated with underwater lunges from baleen whales. Recordings of over 34000 'megapclicks' from two whales indicated relatively low received levels at the tag (between 143 and 154dB re 1 microPa pp), most energy below 2kHz, and interclick intervals often decreasing towards the end of click trains to form a buzz. All clicks were recorded during night-time hours. Sharp body rolls also occurred at the end of click bouts containing buzzes, suggesting feeding events. This acoustic behaviour seems to form part of a night-time feeding tactic for humpbacks and also expands the known acoustic repertoire of baleen whales in general.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Echolocation*
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology*
  • Humpback Whale / physiology*
  • Orientation
  • Sound Spectrography