Abstract: Arabian Sea humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae), listed as “Endangered” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List, remain resident throughout the year in the waters of the Arabian Sea and constitute a genetically isolated population. In the eastern Arabian Sea, information on humpback whales off the Indian coast has largely been limited to stranding records, local ecological knowledge, and opportunistic visual sighting data. These data, along with information from a long-term study off Oman, suggest that humpback whales migrate across the Arabian Sea into Indian territorial waters from October to March. To study the presence of Arabian Sea humpback whales in Indian waters more comprehensively, passive acoustic monitoring (PAM) was initiated along the west coast of India in 2019. Male humpback whales produce complex songs with a stereotyped structure; these songs are shared within a population, and song patterns are known to evolve progressively over time. In this article, a structural analysis of humpback whale song recorded over four days off the coast of Netrani Island, Karnataka, India, in December 2019 is presented. Time-frequency features of 2,641 individual call units were analysed. Call units had a fundamental frequency bandwidth ranging from 149.98 to 541.65 Hz, with a duration ranging from 1.19 to 5.5 s. The call units were used to identify phrases and themes required to construct the structure of the song, which can potentially help identify the population to which singing individuals belong. This study indicates the need for a long-term PAM program across the Arabian Sea to compare whale songs across the region. Simultaneous recordings over multiple seasons will best assess population connectivity, seasonal occurrence, and movement patterns within and between populations across the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean.
Key Words: Arabian Sea humpback whales, Megaptera novaeangliae, passive acoustic monitoring, song, vocal repertoire, India
Page Numbers: 223-235
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