The seasonal occupancy and diel behaviour of Antarctic sperm whales revealed by acoustic monitoring
The seasonal occupancy and diel behaviour of sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) was investigated using data from long-term acoustic recorders deployed off east Antarctica. An automated method for investigating acoustic presence of sperm whales was developed, characterised, and applied to multi-year acoustic datasets at three locations. Instead of focusing on the acoustic properties of detected clicks, the method relied solely on the inter-click-interval (ICI) for determining presence within an hour-long recording. Parameters for our classifier were informed by knowledge of typical vocal behaviour of sperm whales. Sperm whales were detected predominantly from Dec-Feb, occasionally in Nov, Mar, Apr, and May, but never in the Austral winter or early spring months. Ice cover was found to have a statistically significant negative effect on sperm whale presence. In ice-free months sperm whales were detected more often during daylight hours and were seldom detected at night, and this effect was also statistically significant. Seasonal presence at the three east Antarctic recording sites were in accord with what has been inferred from 20th century whale catches off western Antarctica and from stomach contents of whales caught off South Africa.