Date of Completion
Honors College Thesis
Department of Biology
Honors College, College of Arts and Science Honors
Dr. Ingi Agnarsson
Dr. Laura May-Collado
Dr. Maria Woolson
acoustic communication, conservation, cultural transmission; engine noise; humpback whale; song
The humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) is a species of marine mammal famed for its charisma and song. This thesis focuses on the population of whales that feeds in the Pacific waters off the coast of Chile and the Antarctic Peninsula and breeds in the Pacific waters off the coast of Ecuador and Central America, which constitutes a poorly known breeding ground. Studies have previously shown that these whales are capable of cultural transmission, which is to pass on song elements over space and time, allowing scientists to track them around the world. Cultural transmission implies acoustic contact and can assist in establishing migratory routes and population overlaps. This thesis has 3 distinct studies which have been segregated by chapters. The first and last chapters of this thesis serve as an introduction and conclusion respectively. In chapter 2, I describe the average breeding song of 2016 of Costa Rica using data collected with autonomous hydrophone recorders. I found 14 phrases grouped into 4 themes. This song changed over the season and varied between individuals, consistent with other studies. In chapter 3, I describe the pace of song change between the period of 2007-2017 using data collected in Panama and Costa Rica. The pace of change increased over this period, suggesting that this population is not acoustically isolated. In chapter 4, we examine the effects of engine noise of acoustic behavior. We find that whales are significantly more quiet in the presence of engine noise. In countries where ecotourism is present, like Costa Rica, the education of boat drivers and fishing industry is imperative to the preservation of this species. Countries fortunate enough to have these creatures call their waters home have an obligation to protect them against anthropogenic threats through education and the implementation of eco-friendly policy.
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Chereskin, Emma P., "Southern Hemisphere Humpback Whale Song in Pacific Central America" (2018). UVM Honors College Senior Theses. 237.