• vocal individuality;
  • call stereotypy;
  • vocal recognition;
  • acoustic analysis;
  • mother-pup behavior;
  • reunion;
  • South American fur seal;
  • Arctocepbalus australis


South American fur seals breeding in Peru are subjected to levels of maternal aggression, and subsequent pup mortality, that are higher than has been reported for any other otariid species. For mothers and pups to maintain contact with each other, a mutual recognition system should exist to facilitate reunion and avoid misdirection of maternal effort. We recorded vocalizations of mothers and pups at Punta San Juan, Peru, during the 1994 and 1995 breeding seasons. Sixteen acoustic variables were measured from a total of 560 calls from 15 mothers and 13 pups. Multivariate analysis showed that calls were variable in several acoustic dimensions. While calls of both mothers and pups showed low variability within and high variability among individuals, mothers' calls were more individualistic. On average, discriminant-function analysis correctly assigned 60% of pup calls and 70% of mother calls to the individual that produced them. Characteristics of the fundamental frequency were most important for distinguishing among mothers, while pup calls, which typically contained less harmonic structure, could be differentiated by formant-like frequency ranges. Thus, calls of mother and pup South American fur seals appear to exhibit sufficient stereotypy to allow for recognition and discrimination among individuals.