The influence of behavioural context on Weddell seal (Leptonychotes weddellii) airborne mother-pup vocalisation

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Previous mammalian studies have demonstrated that varying levels of signaller arousal are frequently expressedthroughvocal behaviour. Thepotentialfor callers to convey theirmotivational statemay ensure that recipient responses are appropriate to their needs. The current study investigated the influence of behavioural context on Weddell seal mother-pup vocalisation. Mother and pup call rates were calculated within five and seven behavioural contexts, respectively, and the acoustic characteristics of 69 pup calls were measured within four contexts (total calls = 276). Context significantly influenced the temporal patterning of calls, with reuniting mothers and pups and lone active pups emitting more calls than during mother-pup contact periods. Reuniting and lone pup calls were also characterised by longer durations, higher fundamental frequencies, and increased energy in upper harmonics. Results suggest that reunion events and lone pup searching are characterised by calls reflective of heightened arousal, compared with mother-pup contact periods.