Combining data from a multisensor tag and passive sonar to determine the diving behavior of a sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus)

W M X Zimmer, Mark Johnson, A D'Amico, P L Tyack

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

73 Citations (Scopus)


This paper reports on the diving behavior of a sperm whale tagged and tracked on September 6, 2000 during the Sirena 2000 cruise in the Ligurian Sea. A total of about 4.5 h of acoustic and nonacoustic sensor data were recorded when a sperm whale was tagged with a Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution developed tag with a hydrophone, motion, and pressure sensors.' The animal was simultaneously tracked with a passive sonar system deployed from the NATO research vessel NRV Alliance. By combining data from the tag and passive sonar, we were able to reconstruct a three-dimensional track of the whale, along with its orientation and vocal behavior. While it was tagged, the whale carried out three deep dives to a depth of about 900 in in an area with a bottom depth of about 2600 in. The inter-click intervals of the diving whale were not consistent with ranging on the bottom, but were consistent the hypothesis that the whale was possibly echolocating on some target(s) near the depth at which it dove to feed. This study demonstrated an ability to track subtle changes in the behavior of diving whales. This ability is important for three areas: 1) basic research, 2) studies of the responses of these animals to controlled exposures of manmade noise, and 3) studies to infer the biological significance of behavioral disruption.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13-28
Number of pages16
JournalIEEE Journal of Oceanic Engineering
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2003


  • array beam steering
  • echolocation
  • inter-click interval (ICI)
  • marine mammals
  • multipath ranging
  • passive sonar
  • tags
  • underwater tracking


Dive into the research topics of 'Combining data from a multisensor tag and passive sonar to determine the diving behavior of a sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus)'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this