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Threshold received sound pressure levels of single 1-2 kHz and 6-7 kHz up-sweeps and down-sweeps causing startle responses in a harbor porpoise (Phocoena phocoena)

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Author: Kastelein, R.A. · Steen, N. · Gransier, R. · Wensveen, P.J. · Jong, C.A.F. de
Source:Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 3, 131, 2325-2333
Identifier: 448201
doi: doi:10.1121/1.368203
Keywords: Defence Research · Defence, Safety and Security · Physics & Electronics · AS - Acoustics & Sonar · TS - Technical Sciences


Mid-frequency and low-frequency sonar systems produce frequency-modulated sweeps which may affect harbor porpoises. To study the effect of sweeps on behavioral responses (specifically startle responses, which we define as sudden changes in swimming speed and/or direction), a harbor porpoise in a large pool was exposed to three pairs of sweeps: a 1-2 kHz up-sweep was compared with a 2-1 kHz down-sweep, both with and without harmonics, and a 6-7 kHz up-sweep was compared with a 7-6 kHz down-sweep without harmonics. Sweeps were presented at five spatially averaged received levels (mRLs; 6 dB steps; identical for the up-sweep and down-sweep of each pair). During sweep presentation, startle responses were recorded. There was no difference in the mRLs causing startle responses for up-sweeps and down-sweeps within frequency pairs. For 1-2 kHz sweeps without harmonics, a 50% startle response rate occurred at mRLs of 133 dB re 1 μPa; for 1-2 kHz sweeps with strong harmonics at 99 dB re 1 μPa; for 6-7 kHz sweeps without harmonics at 101 dB re 1 μPa. Low-frequency (1-2 kHz) active naval sonar systems without harmonics can therefore operate at higher source levels than mid-frequency (6-7 kHz) active sonar systems without harmonics, with similar startle effects on porpoises. © 2012 Acoustical Society of America.