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Keywords:

  • leopard seal;
  • Hydrurga leptonyx;
  • captive;
  • acoustic behavior;
  • local and broadcast calls

Abstract

Two groups of underwater vocalizations were identified in a three-year study of two captive leopard seals, Hydurga leptonyx (one female and one male at Taronga Zoo, Sydney). This was supplemented by recordings over three months from a male at Marineland, New Zealand. The sexual state of the seals at Taronga was deduced from serum hormonal concentrations: the female was considered to be in estrus at specific times during the breeding season. The seal at Marineland, New Zealand was assumed to be sexually mature on the basis of size and age. Of 12 different underwater sound types recorded, six were produced by the seals at Taronga Zoo during agonistic interactions (local calls) and were heard through most of the year. The other six sound types were produced by lone seals. These broadcast calls were produced by the female only when sexually receptive, and by the mature male during December and January, months believed to be the breeding season of wild leopard seals. We propose that underwater acoustic behavior is important in the mating system of this species, and that broadcast calls are used by mature females to advertise their sexual receptivity, and possibly by mature males in search of mates.