Parameterizing animal sounds and motion with animal-attached tags to study acoustic communication

Marco Casoli*, Mark Johnson, Katherine A. McHugh, Randall S. Wells, Peter Lloyd Tyack

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
3 Downloads (Pure)


Stemming from the traditional use of field observers to score states and events, the study of animal behaviour often relies on analyses of discrete behavioural categories. Many studies of acoustic communication record sequences of animal sounds, classify vocalizations, and then examine how call categories are used relative to behavioural states and events. However, acoustic parameters can also convey information independent of call type, offering complementary study approaches to call classifications. Animal-attached tags can continuously sample high-resolution behavioural data on sounds and movements, which enables testing how acoustic parameters of signals relate to parameters of animal motion. Here, we present this approach through case studies on wild common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus). Using data from sound-and-movement recording tags deployed in Sarasota (FL), we parameterized dolphin vocalizations and motion to investigate how senders and receivers modified movement parameters (including vectorial dynamic body acceleration, “VeDBA”, a proxy for activity intensity) as a function of signal parameters. We show that (1) VeDBA of one female during consortships had a negative relationship with centroid frequency of male calls, matching predictions about agonistic interactions based on motivation-structural rules; (2) VeDBA of four males had a positive relationship with modulation rate of their pulsed vocalizations, confirming predictions that click-repetition rate of these calls increases with agonism intensity. Tags offer opportunities to study animal behaviour through analyses of continuously sampled quantitative parameters, which can complement traditional methods and facilitate research replication. Our case studies illustrate the value of this approach to investigate communicative roles of acoustic parameter changes.
Original languageEnglish
Article number59
Number of pages21
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Issue number4
Early online date9 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022


  • Behavioural parameters
  • Acoustic communication
  • Acoustic parameters
  • Signal grading
  • Bottlenose dolphin
  • Biologging


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