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Podcast: Singing and whistling cetaceans of southern Africa revealed by bioacoustics

  • On today’s episode of the Mongabay Newscast we’re taking a look at two examples of how bioacoustics studies have discovered things we never knew before about marine life.
  • Dr. Tess Gridley joins us to talk about the recent discovery of singing humpback whales in South Africa’s False Bay. Gridley plays us some of the recordings she and her team made documenting humpback songs in False Bay for the first time ever, and discusses the African Bioacoustics Community’s upcoming conference, which she hopes will help inspire even more bioacoustic research focused on African wildlife.
  • We’re also joined by Sasha Dines, a PhD student at the University of Stellenbosch who is studying humpback dolphins. Dines’ work is focused on determining whether or not Indian Ocean humpback dolphins make signature whistle calls, which could be used to monitor the dolphins’ via passive acoustic monitoring arrays. She plays us some whistle calls of a humpback dolphin named Herme, and explains how bioacoustic monitoring could help improve not just monitoring but also conservation efforts for these endangered dolphins.

On today’s episode of the Mongabay Newscast we’re taking a look at two examples of how bioacoustics studies have allowed us to discover things we never knew before about marine life.

Listen here:

 

As regular listeners to the Mongabay Newscast know, we often feature bioacoustic recordings on this podcast. Bioacoustics is a growing field of research around the globe.

On our last episode, Mongabay founder and CEO Rhett Butler discussed how bioacoustics could help evaluate the effectiveness of conservation interventions, one area of research that is not nearly as robust as it probably should be. Bioacoustics are already being used to study animal behavior and monitor wildlife populations and whole ecosystems.

One of the most fascinating things about bioacoustics is that it is letting us peer into worlds we never could have otherwise looked into, such as the world beneath the ocean’s surface. Today we look at two examples of discoveries made using bioacoustics about species found in the waters around southern Africa.

Dr. Tess Gridley joins us to talk about the recent discovery of singing humpback whales in South Africa’s False Bay. Dr. Gridley is affiliated with the University of Cape Town and the University of Stellenbosch, both in South Africa, the director of the NGOs Sea Search and the Namibian Dolphin Project, and the founder of the African Bioacoustics Community. Gridley plays us some of the recordings she and her team made documenting humpback songs in False Bay for the first time ever, and discusses the African Bioacoustics Community’s upcoming conference, which she hopes will help inspire even more bioacoustic research focused on African wildlife.

We’re also joined by Sasha Dines, a PhD student at the University of Stellenbosch who is studying humpback dolphins. Dines’ work is focused on determining whether or not Indian Ocean humpback dolphins make signature whistle calls, which could be used to monitor the dolphins via passive acoustic monitoring arrays. She plays recordings of whistles made by a humpback dolphin named Herme for us and explains how bioacoustic monitoring could help improve not just monitoring but also conservation efforts for these endangered dolphins.

On a September 2019 episode of the Mongabay Newscast, we featured the calls of humpback whales from four different breeding grounds around the world. Despite being separated by vast distances and hailing from completely different groups of humpbacks, the whales all appeared to be singing nearly identical songs, which challenges our view of how humpbacks live their lives. You can listen here:

And you can listen to Mongabay’s Rhett Butler discuss how bioacoustics could help improve conservation impact evaluation here:

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A humpback whale breaching off the coast of South Africa. Photo by Sea Search/S Elwen.

Follow Mike Gaworecki on Twitter: @mikeg2001

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