Marine Science

Marine Science

Senior Theses 2004

Courtney E. Smith (2004). Relationship of acoustic signals and behaviors of bottlenose dolphins, Tursiops truncatus, in Boca Ciega Bay, Florida
Faculty advisor: Stephen Weppner


In order to understand the biological and behavioral significance of acoustic signal use by bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus), a multi-variate approach must be taken. Approximately 7.5 hours of acoustic and ad libitum behavioral data were recorded in Boca Ciega Bay, Florida, during the 2003 field season (June through September) of the Eckerd College Dolphin Project. Six types of acoustic signals (whistles, echolocation, buzzing, popping, quacking and squawking) were identified and associated with four behavioral categories (traveling, milling, socializing and foraging) exhibited by dolphins. A chi-square analysis and correspondence analysis revealed three distinct associations between signal type and behavior, with the greatest difference in associations between social and non-social behaviors. Popping and buzzing were associated with foraging behavior. Squawking and quacking occurred most often during socializing. Whistling and echolocation were associated with traveling and milling. The results of this study suggest that by understanding the context in which some of these acoustic signals are used, acoustic monitoring may be a useful tool in identifying unobservable behaviors.

Student Research