Underwater vocalizations and associated behavior in captive ringed seals (Pusa hispida)
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In pinniped species, especially those that mate in the water, acoustic communication is suggested to play an important role in various aspects of behavior. However, little is known about the behavioral context or function of vocalization, principally because direct observation is difficult in the wild. In the present study, we analyzed the seasonality, sexual differences, and behavioral contexts of the vocalizations of captive ringed seals to explore the function of such communication. The behavior of and underwater sounds made by three ringed seals (an adult male, an adult female, and a subadult female) living in Otaru Aquarium, Japan, were recorded for 19 days between August 2011 and April 2012. Six call types (long snort, knock, yelp, bark, click, and woof) were identified in the recordings. The 12 observed social behaviors could be categorized into three categories (male courtship, aggression, and submission). All call types except clicks were vocalized during social behavior. Vocalizations of all types increased during the breeding season. The long snorts were only produced by the adult male toward an adult female during his courtship behavior. All three individuals emitted knocks, yelps, and bark sounds. Of these three call types, knocks were associated with aggressive behavior or the male’s courtship behavior. In contrast, alternate series of yelps and barks were vocalized by the recipients of aggressive behaviors, suggesting their function as submissive signals. This study could be applied to the monitoring of wild ringed seals with passive acoustic recordings to assess not only their distribution but also their behavior.
KeywordsRinged seal Pusa hispida Vocalization Courtship behavior Agonistic behavior Sounds
We would like to thank Drs. Sugiura Hideki, Michio Nakamura, Morisaka Tadamichi, and other teaching staff and students at the Wildlife Research Center of Kyoto University for their assistance. We extend our gratitude to staff at the Otaru Aquarium for their cooperation during this study.
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