Show Details

Elephant Seal Calls

August 1, 2017

Elephant seals recognize each other by rhythm and pitch of their calls.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Elephant seal rhythms. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

(elephant seal calls)

Northern elephant seals recognize each other by the unique rhythm and pitch of each male’s grunt-like calls. This helps them avoid deadly brawls, according to UC Santa Cruz animal behaviorist Colleen Reichmuth.

COLLEEN REICHMUTH (UC Santa Cruz):

They have some of the most brutal high-stakes fights that you can imagine in the animal kingdom, so they would like to avoid unnecessary fights. And so what these animals do is control each other using their voices alone. So one big elephant seal can move another one from 50 or 100 meters away just by calling and the listener can attack or retreat based on his perception of that signal.

HIRSHON:

Reichmuth and her colleagues write in the journal Current Biology that no other mammals, other than us are known to use a combination of rhythm and pitch to distinguish each other. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Susanne Bard

LEARN MORE