Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Marine Science

Major Professor

David A. Mann, Ph.D.


Bottlenose dolphin, Beaked whale, Audiogram, Envelope following response (EFR), modulation rate transfer function (MRTF), Tursiops truncatus, Mesoplodon europaeus


Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) and other odontocete cetaceans rely on sound for communication, navigation, and foraging. Therefore, hearing is one of their primary sensory modalities. Both natural and anthropogenic noise in the marine environment could mask the ability of free-ranging dolphins to detect sounds, and chronic noise exposure could cause permanent hearing losses. In addition, several mass strandings of odontocete cetaceans, especially beaked whales, have been correlated with military exercises involving mid-frequency sonar, highlighting unknowns regarding hearing sensitivity in these animals.Auditory evoked potential (AEP) methods are attractive over traditional behavioral methods for measuring the hearing of marine mammals because they allow rapid assessments of hearing sensitivity and can be used on untrained animals. The goals of this study were to 1.) investigate the differences among underwater AEP, in-air AEP, and underwater behavioral heari

ng measurements using two captive bottlenose dolphins, 2.) investigate the hearing abilities of a population of free-ranging bottlenose dolphins in Sarasota Bay, Florida, using AEP techniques, and 3.) report the hearing abilities of a stranded juvenile beaked whale (Mesoplodon europaeus) measured using AEP techniques.For the two captive dolphins, there was generally good agreement among the hearing thresholds determined by the three test methods at frequencies above 20 kHz. At 10 and 20 kHz, in-air AEP audiograms were substantially higher (about 15 dB) than underwater behavioral and underwater AEP audiograms.For the free-ranging dolphins of Sarasota Bay, Florida, there was considerable individual variation, up to 80 dB between individuals, in hearing abilities. There was no relationship between age, gender, or PCB load and hearing sensitivities. Hearing measured in a 52-year-old captive-born bottlenose dolphin showed similar hearing thresholds to the Sarasota dolphins up to 80 kHz,

but exhibited a 50 dB drop in sensitivity at 120 kHz.Finally, the beaked whale was most sensitive to high frequency signals between 40 and 80 kHz, but produced smaller evoked potentials to 5 kHz, the lowest frequency tested. The beaked whale hearing range and sensitivity were similar to other odontocetes that have been measured.