Testing and deployment of C-VISS (cetacean-borne video camera and integrated sensor system) on wild dolphins


Multi-sensor biologgers are a powerful method for studying individual behaviors of free-ranging species, yet the challenges of attaching non-invasive biologgers to agile, fast-moving marine species have prohibited application of this technique to small (<5 m) cetaceans. Integration of video cameras into such biologgers is critical to understanding behavior from the animal’s perspective; however, this technique has not been applied to small cetaceans. We examined the feasibility of remotely deploying a cetacean-borne video camera and integrated sensor system (“C-VISS”) on small cetaceans. We deployed C-VISS on eight free-swimming dusky dolphins (Lagenorhynchus obscurus) off New Zealand (42°25′15″S 173°40′23″E) from December 2015 to January 2016, collecting a total of 535 min of video footage (average = 66.8 ± 91.10 SD, range 9–284). Dolphins were observed to show limited reactions to biologger attachment attempts and deployments. Social and environmental parameters derived from video footage include conspecific body condition, mother-calf spatial positioning, affiliative behavior, sexual behavior, sociability, prey, and habitat type. The ability to record behavioral states and fine-scale events from the individual’s perspective will yield new insights into the behavior, socioecology, conservation, rehabilitation, and welfare of small cetaceans.

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Thanks to: K. Brown, H. Butcher, A. Fanucci-Kiss, E. Hill, A. Judkins, and J. Weir for field assistance; S. Gan for assistance with video analysis; M. Morrissey/Department of Conservation (DOC) and B. and M. Würsig for use of their research vessels and other field support; and the Vancouver Aquarium marine mammal trainers for their assistance during the captive trials. Funding was provided by a National Geographic Society/Waitt Fund Grant; the Encounter Foundation; the Faculty of Veterinary Science and School of Electrical and Information Engineering, The University of Sydney; the Herchel Smith-Harvard Undergraduate Science Research Program; and the University of Alaska Southeast. This material is also based in part upon work supported by the Alaska NASA EPSCoR Program (NNX13AB28A).

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Correspondence to Heidi C. Pearson.

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All authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Ethical approval

All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. All procedures performed in studies involving animals were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institution or practice at which the studies were conducted. This study was conducted under University of Alaska Fairbanks IACUC 490961-8, Massey University Animal Ethics Committee approval MU13/90, and DOC permit 37696-MAR. The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare. This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by any of the authors.

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Reviewed by E. Ferrari and undisclosed experts.

Responsible Editor: Y. Cherel.

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Video S1. C-VISS video clip highlighting large group social behavior and mother-calf spatial positioning. Note: the video was rotated 90° counterclockwise in post-processing and the time/date stamp is incorrect. (MP4 19844 KB)

Video S1. C-VISS video clip highlighting large group social behavior and mother-calf spatial positioning. Note: the video was rotated 90° counterclockwise in post-processing and the time/date stamp is incorrect. (MP4 19844 KB)

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Pearson, H.C., Jones, P.W., Srinivasan, M. et al. Testing and deployment of C-VISS (cetacean-borne video camera and integrated sensor system) on wild dolphins. Mar Biol 164, 42 (2017) doi:10.1007/s00227-017-3079-z

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  • Syntactic Foam
  • Video Footage
  • Very High Frequency
  • Attachment Duration
  • Instrument Individual