Variability and context-specificity of narwhal (Monodon monoceros) whistles and pulsed calls

Marianne Marcoux, Marie Auger-Methe, Murray M. Humphries

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21 Citations (Scopus)


The behavioral and environmental context of animal calls provides insights into their functions. Narwhals are a highly vocal species and, like other social cetaceans, rely on acoustic signals to communicate. We characterize and categorize narwhal whistles and pulsed calls, as well as investigate variation in these calls under different contexts (behavior, herd, and year) using recordings made during the month of August 2006–2008, in Koluktoo Bay (72°04'N, 80°32'W). We detected similarities among whistles but not pulsed calls that were produced under a similar behavioral context. Both whistles and pulsed calls recorded within the same herd were more similar than whistles and pulsed calls recorded within different herds. We did not find any type of whistle to be associated with a specific behavior although some acoustical features might be behavior specific. Both whistles and pulsed calls show properties that are consistent with the hypothesis that narwhals produce group- or individual-specific calls.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages17
JournalMarine Mammal Science
Issue number4
Early online date5 Aug 2011
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2012



  • Arctic
  • cetacean
  • dialect
  • monodontidae
  • narwhal
  • Monodon monoceros
  • neural network
  • whale

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