The memory remains: long-term vocal recognition in Australian sea lions
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- Pitcher, B.J., Harcourt, R.G. & Charrier, I. Anim Cogn (2010) 13: 771. doi:10.1007/s10071-010-0322-0
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The ability to recognize other individuals plays an important role in mediating social interactions. As longitudinal studies are challenging, there is only limited evidence of long-term memory of individuals and concepts in mammals. We examined the ability of six wild Australian sea lions to discriminate between the voice of their mother and another adult female, both while they were dependent on their mother and when they were independent, 2 years after weaning. Here, we show that even after a long period of independence, juveniles retain the ability to identify their mother’s voice. Both when dependent and independent, animals showed stronger responses to maternal calls than to the calls of another female. This demonstration of recognition provides rare evidence of the long-term memory capabilities of wild mammals.