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Spotted seal Phoca largha underwater vocalisations in relation to ambient noise

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Per Berggren



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by Inter-Research, 2022.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


Animals use different strategies to adjust their vocalisations to compensate for ambient noise interference. This is true for some marine mammals, especially cetaceans, but relatively little is known about this for pinnipeds. We recorded 4 major call types (drum, growl, knock, and sweep) of spotted seals Phoca largha in Liaodong Bay, China, to investigate if seals adjusted their vocalisation parameters in relation to broadband (50-4000 Hz) ambient noise recorded immediately preceding each seal vocalisation. Regression analyses showed that the received level of growls, in both broadband and 1/3-octave bands, centred at 200 and 400 Hz, significantly increased with increasing ambient noise levels. These relationships were not observed in the other 3 call types. Further, regardless of call type, the duration, centroid frequency, and root mean squared bandwidth parameters showed no statistical relationship with noise levels. The noise measured in this study had relatively low broadband levels of 116-132 dB re 1 ┬ÁPa, and no masking was predicted for any of the 4 call types at 200 and 400 Hz when applying a standard critical ratio approach. It is therefore possible that the ambient noise levels in the study area were not sufficiently loud to induce vocal compensation to avoid masking, but loud enough for the seals to adjust their growl vocalisations. To our knowledge, this study is the first to investigate potential vocal adjustment of spotted seals in relation to ambient noise and is important in light of increasing anthropogenic noise in the marine environment.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Yang L, Xu X, Berggren P

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Marine Ecology Progress Series

Year: 2022

Volume: 683

Pages: 209-220

Online publication date: 03/02/2022

Acceptance date: 03/02/2022

Date deposited: 23/05/2022

ISSN (print): 0171-8630

ISSN (electronic): 1616-1599

Publisher: Inter-Research


DOI: 10.3354/meps13951

ePrints DOI: 10.57711/cxzy-e550


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