The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America (2008)

DOI: 10.1121/1.2945154


Underwater sound signals for biosonar and communication normally have different source properties to serve the purposes of generating efficient acoustic backscatter from small objects or conveying information to conspecifics. Harbor porpoises (Phocoena phocoena) are nonwhistling toothed whales that produce directional, narrowband, high-frequency (HF) echolocation clicks. This study tests the hypothesis that their 130kHz HF clicks also contain a low-frequency (LF) component more suited for communication. Clicks from three captive porpoises were analyzed to quantify the LF and HF source properties. The LF component is 59 (S.E.M=1.45dB)dB lower than the HF component recorded on axis, and even at extreme off-axis angles of up to 135°, the HF component is 9dB higher than the LF component. Consequently, the active space of the HF component will always be larger than that of the LF component. It is concluded that the LF component is a by-product of the sound generator rather than a dedicated pulse produced to serve communication purposes. It is demonstrated that distortion and clipping in analog tape recorders can explain some of the prominent LF components reported in earlier studies, emphasizing the risk of erroneous classification of sound types based on recording artifacts.