Probability of detecting marine predator-prey and species interactions using novel hybrid acoustic transmitter-receiver tags

Laurie L. Baker, Ian D. Jonsen, Joanna E. Mills Flemming, Damian C. Lidgard, William D. Bowen, Sara J. Iverson, Dale M. Webber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
54 Downloads (Pure)


Understanding the nature of inter-specific and conspecific interactions in the ocean is challenging because direct observation is usually impossible. The development of dual transmitter/receivers, Vemco Mobile Transceivers (VMT), and satellite-linked (e.g. GPS) tags provides a unique opportunity to better understand between and within species interactions in space and time. Quantifying the uncertainty associated with detecting a tagged animal, particularly under varying field conditions, is vital for making accurate biological inferences when using VMTs. We evaluated the detection efficiency of VMTs deployed on grey seals, Halichoerus grypus, off Sable Island (NS, Canada) in relation to environmental characteristics and seal behaviour using generalized linear models (GLM) to explore both post-processed detection data and summarized raw VMT data. When considering only post-processed detection data, only about half of expected detections were recorded at best even when two VMT-tagged seals were estimated to be within 50-200 m of one another. At a separation of 400 m, only about 15% of expected detections were recorded. In contrast, when incomplete transmissions from the summarized raw data were also considered, the ratio of complete transmission to complete and incomplete transmissions was about 70% for distances ranging from 50-1000 m, with a minimum of around 40% at 600 m and a maximum of about 85% at 50 m. Distance between seals, wind stress, and depth were the most important predictors of detection efficiency. Access to the raw VMT data allowed us to focus on the physical and environmental factors that limit a transceiver's ability to resolve a transmitter's identity.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere98117
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jun 2014
Externally publishedYes

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