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Description and classification of echolocation clicks of Indian Ocean humpback (Sousa plumbea) and Indo-Pacific bottlenose (Tursiops aduncus) dolphins from Menai Bay, Zanzibar, East Africa

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Liangliang Yang, Dr Matthew Sharpe, Dr Andrew Temple, Professor Per Berggren



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Passive acoustic monitoring (PAM) is a powerful method to study the occurrence, movement and behavior of echolocating odontocetes (toothed whales) in the wild. However, in areas occupied by more than one species, echolocation clicks need to be classified into species. The present study investigated whether the echolocation clicks produced by small, at-risk, resident sympatric populations of Indian Ocean humpback dolphin (Sousa plumbea) and Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops aduncus) in Menai Bay, Zanzibar, East Africa, could be classified to allow species specific monitoring. Underwater sounds of S. plumbea and T. aduncus groups were recorded using a SoundTrap 202HF in January and June-August 2015. Eight acoustic parameters, i.e. -10 dB duration, peak, centroid, lower -3 and lower -10 dB frequencies, and -3 dB, -10 dB and root-mean-squared bandwidth, were used to describe and compare the two species’ echolocation clicks. Statistical analyses showed that S. plumbea clicks had significantly higher peak, centroid, lower -3 and lower -10 dB frequencies compared to T. aduncus, whereas duration and bandwidth parameters were similar for the two species. Random Forest (RF) classifiers were applied to determine parameters that could be used to classify the two species from echolocation clicks and achieved 28.6% and 90.2% correct species classification rates for S. plumbea and T. aduncus, respectively. Both species were classified at a higher rate than expected at random, however the identified classifiers would only be useful for T. aduncus monitoring. The frequency and bandwidth parameters provided most power for species classification. Further study is necessary to identify useful classifiers for S. plumbea. This study represents a first step in acoustic description and classification of S. plumbea and T. aduncus in the western Indian Ocean region, with potential application for future acoustic monitoring of species-specific temporal and spatial occurrence in these sympatric species.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Yang L, Sharpe M, Temple AJ, Jiddawi N, Xu X, Berggren P

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: PLOS ONE

Year: 2020

Volume: 15

Issue: 3

Online publication date: 13/03/2020

Acceptance date: 26/02/2020

Date deposited: 16/03/2020

ISSN (electronic): 1932-6203

Publisher: Public Library of Science


DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0230319


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Funder referenceFunder name
MASMA/CP/2014/01Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association (WIOMSA)
the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)