Variation in foraging activity influences area-restricted search behaviour by bottlenose dolphins

Oihane Fernandez Betelu* (Corresponding Author), Virginia Iorio-Merlo, Isla Graham, Barbara Cheney, Simone Prentice, Xi Cheng, Paul Thompson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Area-restricted search (ARS) behaviour is commonly used to characterise spatio-temporal variation in foraging activity of predators, but evidence of the drivers underlying this behaviour in marine systems is sparse. Advances in underwater sound recording techniques and automated processing of acoustic data now provide opportunities to investigate these questions where species use different vocalisations when encountering prey. Here, we used passive acoustics to investigate drivers of ARS behaviour in a population of dolphins, to determine if residency in key foraging areas increased following encounters with prey. Analyses were based on two independent proxies of foraging: echolocation buzzes (widely used as foraging proxies), and bray calls (vocalizations linked to salmon predation attempts). Echolocation buzzes were extracted from echolocation data loggers and bray calls from broadband recordings by a convolutional neural network (CNN). We found a strong positive relationship between the duration of encounters and the frequency of both foraging proxies, supporting the theory that bottlenose dolphins engage in ARS behaviour in response to higher prey encounter rates. This study provides empirical evidence for one driver of ARS behaviour and demonstrates the potential for applying passive acoustic monitoring in combination with deep learning-based techniques to investigate the behaviour of vocal animals.
Original languageEnglish
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 26 May 2023


  • Area-restricted search behaviour
  • Echolocation buzzes
  • Bray calls
  • Bottlenose dolphins
  • Machine learning
  • Passive acoustics


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