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Studies on how toothed whales use sound to find prey in the vast darkness of the deep ocean

PhD defence, Thursday, 25 June 2020. Pernille Tønnesen

2020.06.25 | Liselotte K. Heller

Pernille Tønnesen

During her PhD studies, Pernille Tønnesen researched how two species of deep-diving toothed whales, sperm whales and short-finned pilot whales, adjust their echolocation to match different foraging habitats, foraging tasks and types of prey. To provide context for this foraging behavior, Pernille Tønnesen studied the auditory scene of a hunting sperm whale. Pernille Tønnesen further explored how the active sensing of echolocation develops in young sperm whale calves. These new research findings contribute to the understanding of the foraging ecology of these cryptic top predators, providing important knowledge for conservation measures.

During her PhD studies, Pernille Tønnesen participated in designing, building and deploying a new and improved deep-water sound recording method, which will ease and increase future opportunities to record echolocation of deep-diving toothed whales.


The PhD study was completed at Zoophysiology, Department of Biology, Faculty of Natural Sciences, Aarhus University.

This summary was prepared by the PhD student.

Time: Thursday, 25 June 2020 at 13
Place: Building 1533, room 103, Lecture Theatre E, Department of Mathematics, Aarhus University, Ny Munkegade 118, 8000 Aarhus C, Denmark.
The PhD defence will be held online for audience. To receive a link to the event, please send an e-mail to Mark Bayley (mark.bayley@bios.au.dk).
Title of PhD thesis: Echolocation of deep-diving toothed whales
Contact information: Pernille Tønnesen, e-mail: pernille-t@bios.au.dk, tel.: +45 28147803
Members of the assessment committee:
Research fellow Jonathan Gordon, Depart6ment of Biology, University of St. Andrews, Scotland
Senior researcher Sander Von Benda-Beckmann, Expertise Group for Acoustics and Sonar TNO, Netherlands organization for Applied Technological Research, Netherlands
Associate Professor Mark Bayley (chairman), Department of Biology, Aarhus University, Denmark
Main supervisor:
Professor Peter Teglberg Madsen, Department of Biology, Aarhus University, Denmark
Co-supervisor:
Assistant Professor Shane Gero, Department of Biology, Aarhus University, Denmark

Language: The PhD dissertation will be defended in English

The defence is public.
Due to the coronavirus situation, Aarhus University is physically closed. Therefore, the PhD thesis will not be available for reading at the offices of the PhD administration. Instead, interested parties may send an e-mail to gradschool.nat@au.dk, and receive a digital copy of the PhD thesis. Please note, it may in certain cases be necessary to make an individual arrangement to read the PhD thesis.    

PhD defence
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