Efforts to study the social acoustic signaling behavior of delphinids have traditionally been restricted to audio-range (<20 kHz) analyses. To explore the occurrence of communication signals at ultrasonic frequencies, broadband recordings of whistles and burst pulses were obtained from two commonly studied species of delphinids, the Hawaiian spinner dolphin (Stenella longirostris) and the Atlantic spotted dolphin (Stenella frontalis). Signals were quantitatively analyzed to establish their full bandwidth, to identify distinguishing characteristics between each species, and to determine how often they occur beyond the range of human hearing. Fundamental whistle contours were found to extend beyond 20 kHz only rarely among spotted dolphins, but with some regularity in spinner dolphins. Harmonics were present in the majority of whistles and varied considerably in their number, occurrence, and amplitude. Many whistles had harmonics that extended past 50 kHz and some reached as high as 100 kHz. The relative amplitude of harmonics and the high hearing sensitivity of dolphins to equivalent frequencies suggest that harmonics are biologically relevant spectral features. The burst pulses of both species were found to be predominantly ultrasonic, often with little or no energy below 20 kHz. The findings presented reveal that the social signals produced by spinner and spotted dolphins span the full range of their hearing sensitivity, are spectrally quite varied, and in the case of burst pulses are probably produced more frequently than reported by audio-range analyses.

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