Echolocation signals of free-ranging killer whales (Orcinus orca) and modeling of foraging for chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha)

Whitlow W. L. Au, John K. B. Ford, John K. Horne, Kelly A. Newman Allman
2004 Journal of the Acoustical Society of America  
Fish-eating "resident"-type killer whales ͑Orcinus orca͒ that frequent the coastal waters off northeastern Vancouver Island, Canada have a strong preference for chinook salmon ͑Oncorhynchus tshawytscha͒. The whales in this region often forage along steep cliffs that extend into the water, echolocating their prey. Echolocation signals of resident killer whales were measured with a four-hydrophone symmetrical star array and the signals were simultaneously digitized at a sample rate of 500 kHz
more » ... rate of 500 kHz using a lunch-box PC. A portable VCR recorded the images from an underwater camera located adjacent to the array center. Only signals emanating from close to the beam axis ͑1185 total͒ were chosen for a detailed analysis. Killer whales project very broadband echolocation signals ͑Q equal 0.9 to 1.4͒ that tend to have bimodal frequency structure. Ninety-seven percent of the signals had center frequencies between 45 and 80 kHz with bandwidths between 35 and 50 kHz. The peak-to-peak source level of the echolocation signals decreased as a function of the one-way transmission loss to the array. Source levels varied between 195 and 224 dB re:1 Pa. Using a model of target strength for chinook salmon, the echo levels from the echolocation signals are estimated for different horizontal ranges between a whale and a salmon. At a horizontal range of 100 m, the echo level should exceed an Orcinus hearing threshold at 50 kHz by over 29 dB and should be greater than sea state 4 noise by at least 9 dB. In moderately heavy rain conditions, the detection range will be reduced substantially and the echo level at a horizontal range of 40 m would be close to the level of the rain noise.
doi:10.1121/1.1642628 pmid:15000201 fatcat:h5xmehdy3ncy7h24jt5stnqr6e