Animal Cognition

, Volume 14, Issue 4, pp 585–598 | Cite as

Mutual mother–offspring vocal recognition in an ungulate hider species (Capra hircus)

  • Elodie BrieferEmail author
  • Alan G. McElligott
Original Paper


Parent–offspring recognition can be essential for offspring survival and important to avoid misdirected parental care when progeny mingle in large social groups. In ungulates, offspring antipredator strategies (hiding vs. following) result in differences in mother–offspring interactions, and thus different selection pressures acting on the recognition process during the first weeks of life. Hider offspring are isolated and relatively stationary and silent to avoid detection by predators, whereas follower offspring are mobile and rapidly mix in large social groups. For these reasons, hiders have been suggested to show low offspring call individuality leading to unidirectional recognition of mothers by offspring and followers high offspring call individuality and mutual recognition. We hypothesised that similar differences would exist in hider species between the hiding phase (i.e. unidirectional recognition) and the phase when offspring join social groups (i.e. mutual recognition). We tested these predictions with goats (Capra hircus), a hider species characterised by strong mother–offspring attachment. We compared the individuality of kid and mother calls, and the vocal recognition ability, during the early phase of life when kids are usually hidden and later when kids have typically joined social groups. Contrary to our predictions, we found that both kids and mothers had individualised contact calls and that mutual recognition existed even during the hiding phase. The large differences in the duration of the hiding phase and in the rate of mother–offspring interactions (possibly partially driven by domestication in some species) probably cause variations among hider species in the mother–offspring recognition process.


Acoustic analysis Antipredator strategies Follower Goat Hider Playback experiment Vocal communication 



We are grateful to E. Antill, C. Booth, E. Cant, C. Charpin, K. Cho Geun-A, C. Farrington, F. Galbraith, L. Kashap, J. Kemp, E. Landy, M. Padilla de la Torre and M. Wang for assistance, and to B. Pitcher, I. Charrier and two anonymous referees for helpful comments on the manuscript. We thank D. Reby for providing the custom built programme in Praat. E. Briefer is funded by a Swiss National Science Foundation fellowship. We acknowledge the financial support of the University of London Central Research Fund. We thank the staff of White Post Farm ( for their help and free access to their animals.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

10071_2011_396_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (696 kb)
Electronic Supplementary Material 1. Examples of kids’ hiding sites. (PDF 696 kb)
10071_2011_396_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (47 kb)
Electronic Supplementary Material 2. Detailed description of the acoustic analysis. (PDF 47 kb)
10071_2011_396_MOESM3_ESM.pdf (79 kb)
Electronic Supplementary Material 3. Results of the PCAs and DFAs. (PDF 78 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Biological and Chemical SciencesQueen Mary University of LondonLondonUK

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