Hobbs Roderick

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  • Preprint
    Baseline hearing abilities and variability in wild beluga whales (Delphinapterus leucas)
    ( 2014-01) Castellote, Manuel ; Mooney, T. Aran ; Quakenbush, Lori T. ; Hobbs, Roderick ; Goertz, Caroline ; Gaglione, Eric
    While hearing is the primary sensory modality for odontocetes, there are few data addressing variation within a natural population. This work describes the hearing ranges (4-150 kHz) and sensitivities of seven apparently healthy, wild beluga whales (Delphinapterus leucas) during a population health assessment project that captured and released belugas in Bristol Bay, Alaska. The baseline hearing abilities and subsequent variations are addressed. Hearing was measured using auditory evoked potentials (AEPs). All audiograms showed a typical cetacean U-shape; substantial variation (>30 dB) was found between most and least sensitive thresholds. All animals heard well, up to at least 128 kHz. Two heard up to 150 kHz. Lowest auditory thresholds, 35-45 dB, were identified in the range 45-80 kHz. Greatest differences in hearing abilities occurred at both the high end of the auditory range and at frequencies of maximum sensitivity. In general, wild beluga hearing was quite sensitive. Hearing abilities were similar to belugas measured in zoological settings, reinforcing the comparative importance of both settings. The relative degree of variability across the wild belugas suggests that audiograms from multiple individuals are needed to properly describe the maximum sensitivity and population variance for odontocetes. Hearing measures were easily incorporated into field-based settings. This detailed examination of hearing abilities in wild Bristol Bay belugas provides a basis for a better understanding of the potential impact of anthropogenic noise on a noise-sensitive species. Such information may help design noise limiting mitigation measures that could be applied to areas heavily influenced and inhabited by endangered belugas.
  • Book chapter
    Measuring hearing in wild beluga whales
    ( 2016) Mooney, T. Aran ; Castellote, Manuel ; Quakenbush, Lori T. ; Hobbs, Roderick ; Goertz, Caroline ; Gaglione, Eric
    We measured the hearing abilities of seven wild beluga whales (Delphinapterus leucas) during a collection-and-release experiment in Bristol Bay, AK, USA. Here we summarize the methods and initial data from one animal, discussing the implications of this experiment. Audiograms were collected from 4-150 kHz. The animal with the lowest threshold heard best at 80 kHz and demonstrated overall good hearing from 22-110 kHz. The robustness of the methodology and data suggest AEP audiograms can be incorporated into future collection-and-release health assessments. Such methods may provide high-quality results for multiple animals facilitating population-level audiograms and hearing measures in new species.
  • Article
    Variation in hearing within a wild population of beluga whales (Delphinapterus leucas)
    (The Company of Biologists, 2018-05-08) Mooney, T. Aran ; Castellote, Manuel ; Quakenbush, Lori T. ; Hobbs, Roderick ; Gaglione, Eric ; Goertz, Caroline
    Documenting hearing abilities is vital to understanding a species’ acoustic ecology and for predicting the impacts of increasing anthropogenic noise. Cetaceans use sound for essential biological functions such as foraging, navigation and communication; hearing is considered to be their primary sensory modality. Yet, we know little regarding the hearing of most, if not all, cetacean populations, which limits our understanding of their sensory ecology, population level variability and the potential impacts of increasing anthropogenic noise. We obtained audiograms (5.6–150 kHz) of 26 wild beluga whales to measure hearing thresholds during capture–release events in Bristol Bay, AK, USA, using auditory evoked potential methods. The goal was to establish the baseline population audiogram, incidences of hearing loss and general variability in wild beluga whales. In general, belugas showed sensitive hearing with low thresholds (<80 dB) from 16 to 100 kHz, and most individuals (76%) responded to at least 120 kHz. Despite belugas often showing sensitive hearing, thresholds were usually above or approached the low ambient noise levels measured in the area, suggesting that a quiet environment may be associated with hearing sensitivity and that hearing thresholds in the most sensitive animals may have been masked. Although this is just one wild population, the success of the method suggests that it should be applied to other populations and species to better assess potential differences. Bristol Bay beluga audiograms showed substantial (30–70 dB) variation among individuals; this variation increased at higher frequencies. Differences among individual belugas reflect that testing multiple individuals of a population is necessary to best describe maximum sensitivity and population variance. The results of this study quadruple the number of individual beluga whales for which audiograms have been conducted and provide the first auditory data for a population of healthy wild odontocetes.