Whistle repertoire and structure reflect ecotype distinction of pantropical spotted dolphins in the Eastern Tropical Pacific

Manali Rege-Colt, Julie N. Oswald, Joelle De Weerdt, Jose David Palacios-Alfaro, Maia Austin, Emma Gagne, Jacqueline Maythé Morán Villatoro, Catherine Teresa Sahley, Gilma Alvarado-Guerra, Laura J. May-Collado*

*Corresponding author for this work

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The pantropical spotted dolphin in the Eastern Tropical Pacific (ETP) is found in two genetically and phenotypically diverged ecotypes, coastal and offshore. These habitats have distinct acoustic characteristics, which can lead to the evolution of distinct acoustic communication. Whistles are sounds widely used by dolphins to mediate species and individual recognition and social interactions. Here, we study the whistle acoustic structure and repertoire diversity of offshore and coastal pantropical spotted dolphins. Our results show that there is significantly more within- and across-group variation in whistle fundamental frequency between ecotypes than between offshore groups and between coastal groups. A Random Forest classification analysis performed with an accuracy of 83.99% and identified duration, peak and minimum frequency as the most informative variables for distinguishing between ecotypes. Overall, coastal spotted dolphins produced significantly shorter whistles that were significantly lower in frequency (peak, minimum and maximum, and start and end) than offshore dolphins. Ecotypes produced whistle repertoires that were similar in diversity, but different in contour composition, with the coastal ecotype producing more upsweep whistles than offshore dolphins. The results of this study suggest that acoustic adaptations to coastal and offshore environments could be important contributors to intraspecific variation of dolphin whistle repertoires.
Original languageEnglish
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 18 Aug 2023


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