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Animals Sounds for Animals State Monitoring


Development of Acoustical Detection Methods for Ecological Monitoring

Tech Area / Field

  • BIO-DIV/Biodiversity/Biotechnology
  • BIO-OTH/Other/Biotechnology
  • ENV-APC/Air Pollution and Control/Environment
  • ENV-MIN/Monitoring and Instrumentation/Environment
  • ENV-WPC/Water Pollution and Control/Environment

3 Approved without Funding

Registration date

Leading Institute
All-Russian Scientific Research Institute of Non-Organic Materials named after A. Bochvar, Russia, Moscow

Supporting institutes

  • State Culture Institute "Moscow Zoo", Russia, Moscow\nMISIS (Steel and Alloys), Russia, Moscow


  • Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, USA, CA, Livermore\nZoologisches Forschungsinstitut und Museum Alexander Koenig, Germany, Bonn\nInstitut fuer Zoo- und Wildtierforschung, Germany, Berlin\nWhale and Dolphin Conservation Society, UK, Scotland, North Berwick

Project summary

The problem of ecological monitoring is one of the most actual on the current stage of civilization development. Industry experts strong negative influence on nature. It should not be forgotten that people are the part of nature, and finally, this negative influence will return to human beings. But the wild nature bears the main press of industrial attack. Unfortunately, up to date we have not enough techniques for estimation of the condition of animal populations in all their variability on the large territories (the methods, that are available for this purpose, are either low effective or too expensive). This Project is focused on the development of methods for ecological monitoring of large territories on the base of animal sounds studying. On the one hand, sound recordings don’t need any special conditions or large financial expenses. On the other hand, animal sounds comprise entire information about callers (from their presence, number, composition and oth. up to health condition). These results can be obtained through studying of animal calls, their variability and structure.

The Project also pays much attention to technical aspects of sound recording, such as distances to focal objects and frequency ranges of sound recordings determination. Especially important is the problem of noise filtration.

The purpose of the Project is investigation of acoustical peculiarities of sound production in animals, that should create the base for development of methods for ecological monitoring of wild animals state on large territories, and among them, populations of rare and endangered species. Sounds allow to make monitoring in dense vegetation, in complex relief and under poor visibility. Sounds have a rich potential as informational resource. Many call features undoubtedly mark inpiduality, sex and age of animals. Using acoustical markers for particular packs and inpiduals will permit to control them distantly without capturing animals. Such acoustical methods of animal monitoring are much cheaper than commonly applied radiotracking and avian surveys and much more informative, than inspection of food residuals and other tracks of animal living. Sound playbacks provide the unique possibility to make up real time dialog with animals and to attract them to close distance (Volodina, 2001).

Similar projects are already started in some other places in the world. This theme is especially well presented concerning marine mammals, and is also developing concerning elephants and some songbirds. It is evident, that this perspective is very attractive and should be widespread on other species. From personal contacts, we know, for example, that this theme is very actual for Indian dholes (Asiatic wild dogs), endangered species of canids. This question was being aroused on Canid Conference in Oxford in September 2001. Our colleagues, working with Indian dholes, were very interested in developing of methods, determining inpiduality in the dholes by their calls, to monitor their inpidual pack composition. However, this perspective is only on initial stage of developing, because variability of dhole calls is not yet studied out perfectly. This program is especially actual for rare species of cranes, in connection with current planes of re-introduction of Japanese cranes into nature, as well as for monitoring of rare anseriformes, such as red-breasted goose, endemic Russian species with very narrow nesting area. This theme is actual also for game species, such as whistling ducks, for monitoring of hunting press on their populations. Preliminary data for rodents (susliks and gerbils) show that acoustical monitoring opens new perspectives for estimation of inpidual composition and social relationships on experimental plots. These perspectives provide additional tools for monitoring of potential hosts of plague and other dangerous infections.

The Project envelops also fundamental researches, such as studying of sound production mechanisms for more correct sound classification and more perfect understanding of speech evolving process in humans. Now we know much more about animal sound structures, than about their sound production mechanisms (Fitch et al., 2002; Peters et al., 2002). We observe paradoxical situation, when we know perfectly, who and how calls, but we know nothing about how it produces these calls and what anatomical structures underlie these or other call peculiarities.

In frames of the Project, peculiarities of sound production in animals from different, unrelated to each other groups will be investigated. We have focused on the following object groups: canids (domestic dogs and Asiatic wild dogs or Indian dholes); rodents (gerbils and susliks); cetaceans (killer whales); anseriformes (whistling ducks and red-breasted geese); and cranes (Siberian crane and Japanese crane). The preliminary analysis has revealed highly specific peculiarities of sound production and acoustical communication for all these species.

In particular, we have found that for the dholes production of biphonation (two-voices phenomenon), that is, sounds with two independent frequencies in their spectra, is a prominent feature of their acoustical communication (Volodin et al., 2001; Volodin, Volodina, 2002). Sounds of the same structure were revealed recently in our study of domestic dogs whimpering (Volodin et al., in press). During the work on the Project this acoustical phenomenon will be studied in details, in respect to its communicative role and morphophysiological base.

In rodents (gerbils and susliks) we have found, that closely related animal species, without of substantial differences in their sizes, use for acoustical communication sounds that differ by frequency ranges for ten times. In some species (Great and Pallid gerbils), fundamental frequency do not exceeds 2500 Hz, whereas related to them Mongol, midday and Baluchistan gerbils call exclusively in ultrasound, on frequencies over 20000 Hz (Volodin et al., 1994; Volodin, Goltsman, 2000; Voinilowitch et al., 2002). In frames of work on the Project we will study structural peculiarities of different gerbil species calls and make comparatively morphological analysis of their vocal organs. Also, for susliks, preliminary data suggest high probability of inpidual discrimination in their alarm calls.

Killer whales are the largest species of toothed whales, with complex pod structure and elaborate acoustical communication system that forms by the cultural transmission of vocal repertoire from adult animals to younger ones. Different pods of killer whales use different call types for communication that results in establishing of system of pod-specific vocal dialects unique for each population. Vocal dialects of killer whales were studied in different parts of the world (Canada (Ford 1984, 1991), Alaska (Yurk et al., 2002), Norway (Moore et al., 1988)). In Russia investigation of killer whales acoustical communication have started recently on Kamchatka Peninsula (Filatova, 2002). In the frames of the Project studying of the killer whale vocal repertoire in Kamchatka region will be conducted and geographical relations between different populations of this species in Northern Pacific will be established.

Many bird species have not differences between male and female coloration, that results in acoustic-based inpidual and sex recognition in these species. In frames of the Project it has to be revealed, what structural characteristics of sounds allow birds recognize reliably sex, inpiduality and “quality” (weight, age, social range etc.) of other inpiduals without external sexual differences. Preliminary studies suggest existence of significant sexual differences in loud whistles of two whistling ducks species, providing to a human observer undoubted cues to sex recognition in these species (Klenova et al., 2002; Volodina, Volodin, in press).

The main expected results of the Project are:

1. Development of methods for ecological monitoring of wild animals state on large territories, including rare and endangered animal species populations basing on inpidual, sex, or interpod differences in calls.

2. Development of methods for animal sounds recording in necessary frequency ranges and noise filtration.

3. Estimation of different structural disorders (biphonation, subharmonics and deterministic chaos) occurrence in calls of canids and gerbils; investigation of functioning of these phenomena in coding of information about sexual, age and inpidual identity; revealing of the subharmonics and deterministic chaos functioning as discomfort indicators; estimation of these phenomena role in decrease of voice pitch, that results in enlargement of perceptually perceived size of a caller.

4. Creation of database on structural peculiarities of different gerbils species sounds, conducting of comparatively morphological analysis of vocal organs in species using hearing and ultrasound ranges for acoustical communication.

5. Estimation of potential for acoustical detection of inpiduality in spotted suslik, revealing of cue parameters, responsible for call inpiduality in this species.

6. Creation of database of Kamchatka killer whales vocal repertoire peculiarities, its comparison with vocal dialects of killer whales from Western coast of North America and revealing of geographical relations between populations of these whales in Northern Pacific.

7. Determination of sound features, coding information on sexual and inpidual identity in birds without of external sexual differences, revealing of cue parameters, reliable labeling sex in these species.

8. Description of vocal apparatus peculiarities, responsible for specific structural features in animal sounds - as a morphological base for inpidual, sexual and species variability:

a. Biphonation in the dhole and domestic dogs;
b. Low-frequency noisy calls in small rodents;
c. Sexual differences in whistling ducks call frequency.

9. Creation of databases of digitized calls and their measurements, representing archives for monitoring providing. These databases will be created for five object animal groups of 12 species:

a. Domestic dogs and Indian dhole;
b. Rodents (gerbils and susliks);
c. Cetaceans (killer whale);
d. Anseriformes (whistling ducks and red-breasted goose);
e. Cranes (Siberian crane, Japanese crane).