• Key words: northern fur seals;
  • aerial audiograms;
  • underwater audiograms;
  • critical ratios;
  • hearing sensitivity;
  • California sea lions;
  • psychophysics;
  • pinniped hearing


Aerial and underwater audiograms for two young female northern fur seals (Callorhinus ursinus) and one young female California sea lion (Zalophus californianus) were obtained with the same procedure and apparatus. Callorhinus hears over a larger frequency range and is more sensitive to airborne sounds than Zalophus or any other pinniped thus far tested in the frequency range of 500 Hz to 32 kHz. Sensitivity of Callorhinus to waterborne pure tones, ranging from 2 to 28 kHz, is equal or superior to all other pinnipeds tested in this same frequency range. Like Zalophus, the upper frequency limit for underwater hearing (as defined by Masterton et al. 1969) in Callorhinus is about one-half octave lower than the three phocid species thus far tested. Callorhinus' upper frequency limit in air is about 36 kHz and under water it is about 40 kHz. Comparison of air and water audiograms shows Callorhinus is no exception to previous behavioral findings demonstrating that the „pinniped ear” is more suitable for hearing in water than in air. Similar to Zalophus and Phoca vitulina, Callorhinus shows an anomalous hearing loss at 4 kHz in air. The basis for this insensitivity to airborne sounds at 4kHz and not at lower or higher frequencies is presumably caused by specialized middle ear mechanisms matching impedance for waterborne sounds. Critical ratio curves for Callorhinus are similarly shaped to ones obtained for humans but are shifted upwards in frequency. Compared to all other marine mammals thus far evaluated, the critical ratios for Callorhinus are the smallest yet reported.