Recent research has found a high spatial and temporal correlation between certain baleen whale vocalizations and peak herring spawning processes in the Gulf of Maine. These vocalizations are apparently related to feeding activities with suggested functions that include communication, prey manipulation, and echolocation. Here, the feasibility of the echolocation function is investigated. Physical limitations on the ability to detect large herring shoals and the seafloor by acoustic remote sensing are determined with ocean acoustic propagation, scattering, and statistical theories given baleen whale auditory parameters. Detection is found to be highly dependent on ambient noise conditions, herring shoal distributions, baleen whale time-frequency vocalization spectra, and geophysical parameters of the ocean waveguide. Detections of large herring shoals are found to be physically feasible in common Gulf of Maine herring spawning scenarios at up to 10 ± 6 km in range for humpback parameters and 1 ± 1 km for minke parameters but not for blue and fin parameters even at zero horizontal range. Detections of the seafloor are found to be feasible up to 2 ± 1 km for blue and humpback parameters and roughly 1 km for fin and minke parameters, suggesting that the whales share a common acoustic sensation of rudimentary features of the geophysical environment.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited