Maternal signature whistle use aids mother-calf reunions in a bottlenose dolphin, Tursiops truncatus

Stephanie King, E. Guarino, L. Keaton, K. Jaakkola

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
154 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Individual vocal signatures play an important role in parent-offspring recognition in many animals. One species that uses signature calls to accurately facilitate individual recognition is the bottlenose dolphin. Female dolphins and their calves will use their highly individualised signature whistles to identify and maintain contact with one another. Previous studies have shown high signature whistle rates of both mothers and calves during forced separations. In more natural settings, it appears that the calf vocalises more frequently to initiate reunions with its mother. However, little is known about the mechanisms a female dolphin may employ when there is strong motivation for her to reunite with her calf. In this study, we conducted a series of experimental trials in which we asked a female dolphin to retrieve either her wandering calf or a series of inanimate objects (control). Our results show that she used her vocal signature to actively recruit her calf, and produced no such signal when asked to retrieve the objects. This is the first study to clearly manipulate a dolphin's motivation to retrieve her calf with experimental controls. The results highlight that signature whistles are not only used in broadcasting individual identity, but that maternal signature whistle use is important in facilitating mother-calf reunions. © 2016 Elsevier B.V..
Original languageEnglish
JournalBehavioural Processes
Early online date15 Mar 2016
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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