Hi there! My name is Sander von Benda-Beckmann, one of the members of the Whale FM science team. The Whale FM project is about understanding what whales are saying. On the Whale FM site people are asked to look for similar Killer Whale and Pilot Whale calls and help us establish the repertoire of sounds that these magnificent animals use. In this post I briefly want to take you for a look behind the scene to see what we are doing with the whale calls that have matched.
We have been connecting all whale calls that were matched into a map that we call the Whale FM Mesh. A zoom-in on this map of calls is shown in the picture below. You see a lot of colored circles connected together, some forming larger clusters. We were so happy to see these clusters of calls, because they are exactly what we have been looking for! Let me tell you why…
Each such cluster is a set of whale calls that constitutes a potential call category. If the circles are larger, more people have matched them to their neighbors. The colors indicate different recordings (recorded at different locations and for different groups of animals). If a cluster of calls contains many different colors, it is likely that this type of calls is shared amongst different whales, which is very exciting! Some groups like the top green one consist of primarily one color, indicating that these calls are only used by the single animals, or the group that it was living in. You can still see many little groups of pairs of calls. These are either not really part of a real call category of a haven’t been matched to enough other calls to make sense of yet. We have about 150,000 matches performed by almost 10,000 volunteers. This is already excellent, but still need more matches to link up all the little groups.
So I hope you liked seeing a bit of what we are doing with all the work you are doing. The first look looks very promising! We still need more careful analysis to see what is going on, but we are very excited with the data that the Whale FM volunteers are providing us with. Stay tuned to Whale FM!