Lopez-Marulanda, J., Rödel, H. G., Colpaert, N. et al. 2020. Contexts of emission of non-signature whistles in bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) under human care. Behavioural Processes 181, 104255.
Bottlenose dolphins are social cetaceans that strongly rely on acoustic communication and signaling. The diversity of sounds emitted by the species has been structurally classified into whistles, clicks and burst-pulsed sounds. Although click sounds and individually-specific signature whistles have been largely studied, not much is known about non-signature whistles. Most studies that link behavior and whistle production conduct aerial behavioral observations and link the production of whistles to the general category of social interactions. The aim of this study was to determine if there was a correlation between the non-signature whistle production and the underwater behaviors of a group of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) under human care, during their free time in the absence of trainers. To do this we made audio-video recordings 15 min before and after 10 training sessions of eight dolphins in Boudewijn Seapark (Belgium). For the behavioral analysis we conducted focal follows on each individual based on six behavioral categories. For the acoustical analysis, carried out at the group level, we used the SIGID method to identify non-signature whistles (N = 661) and we classified them in six categories according to their frequency modulation. The occurrences of the six categories of whistles were highly collinear. Most importantly, non-signature whistle production was positively correlated with the time individuals spent slow swimming alone, and was negatively correlated with the time spent in affiliative body contact. This is the first analysis that links the production of non-signature whistles with particular underwater behaviors in this species.