Royal Society Publishing

Food–related bray calls in wild bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus)

V. M. Janik


Because cetaceans are difficult to study in the wild, little is known about how they use their sounds in their natural environment. Only the recent development of passive acoustic localization systems has enabled observations of the communication behaviour of individuals for correlation with their surface behaviour. Using such a system, I show that bottlenose dolphins in the Moray Firth, Scotland, produce low–frequency bray calls which are clearly correlated with feeding on salmonids. The production of these calls is followed by fast approaches by conspecifics in the area. In animals which use sound as a foraging tool, it is difficult to distinguish between food calls which have evolved because of their role in attracting conspecifics, and food manipulation or searching calls which may attract conspecifics as a by–product. However, the low–frequency structure of the bottlenose dolphin bray suggests that it evolved because of a role in manipulating prey rather than in attracting conspecifics. This conclusion suggests that dolphins exploit the perceptual systems of their prey to facilitate capture.