Frequency synchronization of blue whale calls near Pioneer Seamount

J Acoust Soc Am. 2010 Jul;128(1):490-4. doi: 10.1121/1.3446099.


Vocalizations of blue whales were recorded with a cabled hydrophone array at Pioneer Seamount, 50 miles off the California coast. Most calls occurred in repeated sequences of two-call pairs (A, then B). The B call is a frequency-modulated tone highly repeatable in form and pitch. A model of this sound is described which permits detecting very small frequency shifts. B calls are found to be aligned in frequency to about one part in 180. This requires very fine pitch discrimination and control over calling frequency, and suggests that synchronizing to a common frequency pattern carries some adaptive advantage. Some possibilities for acoustic sensing by whales requiring this fine frequency resolution are discussed.

MeSH terms

  • Acoustics
  • Animals
  • Balaenoptera / physiology*
  • California
  • Models, Biological
  • Pacific Ocean
  • Signal Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Social Behavior
  • Sound Spectrography
  • Time Factors
  • Vocalization, Animal*