Australian fur seals are colonial breeding animals that give birth on crowded rookeries. Females leave their pups unattended for extended periods while they forage at sea. On return to the colony, a mother must relocate her pup amongst the hundreds of other pups. Vocal recognition is thought to play a vital role in maintaining the mother-pup bond. In the present study, four sets of 7 different pups were recorded once each at different times throughout the maternal dependence period. The Female Attraction Call was used to determine whether Australian fur seal pups produce individually distinct calls which could be used as a basis for vocal recognition. Results from three different analyses (PIC, DFA and CART) indicated that the fundamental frequency, number of parts per call, duration, quavering and peak frequency changes at the start, mid-point and end of the call (i.e., along PEAK F1) were important to recognition. In 75% of cases using DFA, the Female Attraction Call was classified to the correct caller, suggesting that there is sufficient stereotypy within individual calls, and sufficient variation between them, to enable vocal recognition by females.
Australian fur seals, pups, individual variation, vocalizations, Female Attraction Call