PLOS ONE (2023)

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0288513


Small odontocetes produce echolocation clicks to feed and navigate, making it an essential function for their survival. Recently, the effect of vessel noise on small odontocetes behavior has attracted attention owing to increase in vessel activities; however, the effects of the surrounding environmental factor, vessel noise, and day/night on echolocation click characteristics have not been well studied. Here, we examined the effects of vessel noise and day/night on variations in echolocation clicks and click trains parameters. Passive acoustic monitoring of on-axis echolocation clicks produced by free-ranging finless porpoises (Neophocaena asiaeorientalis sunameri) was performed at two sites in Japan, Seto Inland Sea and Mikawa Bay, in June–September 2021 and March–August 2022, using A-tag and SoundTrap 300HF. Generalized Linear Model was used to elucidate the effect of vessel noise, day/night, and surrounding environmental factors (water temperature, synthetic flow velocity, and noise level) on echolocation click and click train parameters. Echolocation click and click train parameters were strongly affected by day/night, whereas the absence/presence vessel noise did not exhibit statistically significant influence. Particularly, -3 dB bandwidth was wider, click duration was shorter, and inter-click intervals in a train were shorter at night, which may facilitate information processing at night, thereby compensating for the lack of visual information. The interaction between day/night and the absence/presence of vessel noise affected the source level of finless porpoises, with higher levels observed in the absence of vessel noise during the daytime compared to other conditions at the site with low vessel traffic. Overall, these results suggest that echolocation clicks by finless porpoise were likely to fluctuate to adapt with surrounding complex environmental conditions, especially day/night.