The goal of this research was to determine when harbor seal pup vocalizations become sufficiently distinctive to allow individual recognition. A total of 4593 calls were analyzed from 15 captive pups. Nineteen were harsh, broadband, staccato calls used in an aggressive context. The rest were tonal "mother attraction calls," having an inverted "v"- or "u"-shaped spectrogram with harmonics and a fundamental frequency around 200-600 Hz. Calls were individually distinctive even in pups less than 2 weeks old, suggesting that mothers may be able to recognize pup vocalizations at this early age. Classification rates from discriminant function analysis were generally comparable to those of other phocids and less than in otariids, supporting the theory that recognition is more highly developed in otariids. Significant differences were found between male and female pup calls, and there were significant interactions between pup sex and age. The results of this study should be interpreted with caution until the findings are verified in wild harbor seal pups.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Acoustics and Ultrasonics