Australian fur seals Arctocephalus pusillus doriferus are colonial breeding animals forming dense social groups during the breeding season. During this time, males establish and defend territories through physical conflicts, stereotyped posturing and vocalisations. While vocalisations are suggested to play an important role in male recognition systems, it has received little attention. Recordings of nine adult male Australian fur seals were made during the 2000 and 2001 breeding seasons at Kanowna Island (39° 10’S, 146° 18' E), Bass Strait, Australia. The in-air bark vocalisations of territory-holding males were used to characterise the Bark Call and to determine whether males produce individually distinct calls, which could be used as a basis for vocal recognition. Seventeen frequency and temporal variables were measured from a total of 162 barks from nine individual males. The Bark Series was more reliably classified (83%) to the correct caller compared to the Bark Unit. This was assigned with less certainty (68%), although the classification was still relatively high. Findings from this study indicate that there is sufficient stereotypy within individual calls, and sufficient variation between them, to enable vocal recognition in male Australian fur seals.
Australian fur seals, males, vocalisations, individual variation, barks.