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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Call types of Bigg's killer whales (Orcinus orca) in western Alaska: Using vocal dialects to assess population structure
by Sharpe, Deborah Lynn, M.S.E.S., Alaska Pacific University, 2016, 102; 10104546
Abstract (Summary)

Apex predators are important indicators of ecosystem health, but little is known about the population structure of Bigg’s killer whales ( Orcinus orca; i.e. ‘transient’ ecotype) in western Alaska. Currently, all Bigg’s killer whales in western Alaska are ascribed to a single broad stock for management under the US Marine Mammal Protection Act. However, recent nuclear microsatellite and mitochondrial DNA analyses indicate that this stock is likely comprised of genetically distinct sub-populations. In accordance with what is known about killer whale vocal dialects in other locations, I sought to evaluate Bigg’s killer whale population structure by examining the spatial distribution of group-specific call types in western Alaska. Digital audio recordings were collected from 33 encounters with Bigg’s killer whales throughout the Aleutian and Pribilof Islands in the summers of 2001-2007 and 2009-2010. Recorded calls were perceptually classified into discrete types and then quantitatively described using 12 structural and time-frequency measures. Resulting call categories were objectively validated using a random forest approach. A total of 36 call types and subtypes were identified across the entire study area, and regional patterns of call type usage revealed three distinct dialects, each of which corresponding to proposed genetic delineations. I suggest that at least three acoustically and genetically distinct subpopulations are present in western Alaska, and put forth an initial catalog for this area describing the regional vocal repertoires of Bigg’s killer whale call types.

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Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Cornick, Leslie A.
Commitee: Castellote, Manuel, Wade, Paul R.
School: Alaska Pacific University
Department: Environmental Science
School Location: United States -- Alaska
Source: MAI 55/04M(E), Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: Ecology, Zoology, Acoustics
Keywords: Bigg's, Killer whale, Population, Pulsed calls, Random forest, Vocal dialect
Publication Number: 10104546
ISBN: 978-1-339-68066-8
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