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Coda vocalizations recorded in breeding areas are almost entirely produced by mature female sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus)

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We investigated the use and function of coda communication by sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus L., 1758 (= Physeter catodon L., 1758)). Codas are stereotyped patterns of clicks often made by sperm whales in social contexts. We used the pulsed structure of coda clicks recorded from socializing female/immature groups to estimate the body-length distribution of the animals producing the codas. Ninety-five percent of the 10 653 codas that we measured were produced by whales measuring from 9 to 11 m. This size range corresponds to the lengths of mature females. We compared these data to a length distribution calculated from photographic measurements of individuals from the same groups encountered during the same studies. There were more whales shorter than 8.5m (10.0%) and longer than 12.5m (2.7%) in the photographic length distribution than in that of the coda producers (0.30% and 0.08%, respectively). Since males leave their natal group when they are shorter than 9m and return to breeding areas when they measure 13m or more, our data show that the codas were produced almost entirely by mature females. We suggest that coda communication serves several functions, including social bonding.

Nous avons étudié l’utilisation et les fonctions de la communication par « codas » du cachalot (Physeter macrocephalus L., 1758 (= Physeter catodon L., 1758)). Les codas sont formées d’une série de cliquetis qui possèdent un pattern stéréotypé. Nous avons suivi des groupes sociaux de femelles et de jeunes et enregistré leurs codas afin d’estimer la distribution des tailles des cachalots qui les produisent à partir de la structure pulsée des cliquetis. Quatre-vingt-quinze pour cent des 10 653 codas analysées ont été produites par des cachalots mesurant de 9 à 11 m. Ces longueurs correspondent à la taille des femelles matures. Nous avons comparé ces résultats avec la distribution des longueurs calculée à partir de photos prises lors des mêmes études. Il y avait plus de cachalots mesurant moins de 8,5m (10,0 %) et plus de 12,5m (2,7 %) dans les estimations faites à partir de photos que dans celles réalisées à partir des codas (0,30 % et 0,08 %, respectivement). Les codas semblent émises presque exclusivement par les femelles matures puisque les mâles quittent les groupes de femelles et de jeunes lorsqu’ils mesurent moins de 9 m et y reviennent lorsqu’ils mesurent plus de 13m. Nous pensons que la communication par codas sert entre autres au renforcement des liens sociaux.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2006-04-01

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  • Published since 1929, this monthly journal reports on primary research contributed by respected international scientists in the broad field of zoology, including behaviour, biochemistry and physiology, developmental biology, ecology, genetics, morphology and ultrastructure, parasitology and pathology, and systematics and evolution. It also invites experts to submit review articles on topics of current interest.
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