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A comparative analysis of humpback whale songs recorded in pelagic waters of the eastern North Pacific preliminary findings and implications for discerning migratory routes and assessing breeding stock identity
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    A comparative analysis of humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) songs recorded in the eastern North Pacific was performed in order to assess the feasibility of using songs to determine the stock and breeding area identity of migrating whales. Acoustic recordings were made in spring 1997 throughout temperate and subtropical waters of the eastern North Pacific during a marine mammal research cruise (SWAPS) and at the Revillagigedo Archipelago, Mexico during a separate investigation of humpback whales. Songs were analyzed from samples recorded at three distinct pelagic regions of the SWAPS cruise: 1) approximately 2000 km NNE of Hawaii; 2) approximately 1200 km west of San Francisco, California; and 3) approximately 1400 km west of San Diego, CA. These samples were compared to songs recorded during a coincident period at Socorro Island, a humpback whale breeding area in the Mexican Pacific. More than 400 phrases were extracted, qualitatively categorized, and compared. Nine unique phrase types were identified from the Mexican sample of which eight were also identified from the two pelagic samples recorded off California. Reliable comparisons among the four regions sampled were problematic, primarily due to the poor quality of most recordings made during the SWAPS cruise. For future work, we recommend a dedicated effort to obtain high quality recordings of songs for all geographic areas to be compared. Furthermore, songs from respective breeding areas should be characterized quantitatively before proceeding with comparative analyses. In the near future, rapid advances in digital signal processing technology and worldwide deployments of acoustic monitoring equipment should make it more practical to use songs as an indicator of stock and breeding area identity. However, at present there other more efficient and reliable methods of accomplishing these goals.
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