Dataset: Weddell Seal underwater calling rates during the winter and spring near Mawson Station, Antarctica


During the winter and spring of 2002, underwater calling rates were measured near mid-day on an opportunistic basis at 7 breeding sites and, at two breeding sites, over 24 hour periods once a month. The data were analysed with respect to reproductive season (early ice formation, prebreeding, pupping and mating) and if the recordings were made when it was dark or twilight/light.

Taken from the abstract of the paper referenced below:

Underwater vocalisation monitoring and surveys, both on ice and underwater, were used to determine if Weddell seals (Leptonychotes weddellii) near Mawson Station, Antarctica, remain under the fast ice during winter within close range of breeding sites. Daytime and nighttime underwater calling rates were examined at seven breeding sites during austral winter and spring to identify seasonal and diel patterns. Seals rarely hauled out at any of the sites during winter, although all cohorts (adult males, females, and juveniles) were observed underwater and surfacing at breathing holes throughout winter (June-September) and spring (October-December). Seal vocalisations were recorded during each sampling session throughout the study (n=102 daytime at seven sites collectively, and n=5 24-h samples at each of two sites). Mean daytime calling rate was low in mid-winter (July) (mean = 18.9 plus or minus 7.1 calls per minute) but increased monthly, reaching a peak during the breeding season (November) (mean = 62.6 plus or minus 15.7 calls per minute). Mean nighttime calling rate was high throughout the winter and early spring (July-October) with mean nocturnal calling rate in July (mean = 61.8 plus or minus 35.1 calls per minute) nearly equal to mean daytime calling rate in November (during 24-h daylight). Reduced vocal behaviour during winter daylight periods may result from animals utilising the limited daylight hours for nonvocal activities, possibly feeding.

The following study sites were among those used in this project (provided by Phil Rouget):

An image showing the locations of the fields sites is also part of the download file.

The fields in this dataset are:

Calling rate
Sun time

General Information