First song description of the humpback whales, Megaptera novaeangliae (Balaenopteridae: Artiodactyla), breeding off Nicaragua

Joëlle De Weerdt, Divna Djokic, Renata S. Sousa-Lima, Federica Pace

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Introduction: Humpback whales belonging to the Central American (CA) Distinct Population Segment breed off the Pacific coast of Nicaragua. Knowledge on this endangered population and its conservation status is limited. Objective: The aim of this study is to provide the first description of the CA humpback whale song off Nicaragua, which helps further understanding on the population’s dynamics. Methods: Acoustic recordings of songs were obtained during dedicated boat-based surveys at two locations on the Pacific coast of Nicaragua in 2018. Recordings were made from the boat using a portable system for a total of 23 hours and 56 minutes over 32 days from January to April 2018. A total of nine recordings of high enough quality for the song analysis were identified during this period from three different days at Padre Ramos (PR) (northern site) and four different days at San Juan del Sur (southern site). Song structure was described using standard humpback whale song elements, i.e. themes, phrases, and units. Results: A total of seven themes, seven phrases, and 19 unit types were identified. Three of the themes were common and frequently repeated in a song cycle while the others were less common in the repertoire and were recorded only during the middle of the season. Song theme order was variable, both within and across song sessions. Conclusions: This study provides the first song description of humpback whales along the Pacific coast of Nicaragua. Comparison of these songs with other datasets from the CA population and other breeding areas in the Northern Hemisphere could help understand the migratory patterns of these animals and the level of con-nectivity among populations since song can be socially learnt. Future data collection of humpback whale song recordings in Nicaragua is necessary to gain further understanding on the song structure variation within this population and the mechanisms of song transmission and dynamics across populations in the region
Original languageEnglish
Article number e57281
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalRevista de Biología Tropical
Issue numberS4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2023


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