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Journal Article

Vocal behavior of resident killer whale matrilines with newborn calves: The role of family signatures

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Weiß, B. M., Ladich, F., Spong, P., & Symonds, H. (2006). Vocal behavior of resident killer whale matrilines with newborn calves: The role of family signatures. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 119(1), 627-635. doi:10.1121/1.2130934.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-002C-128A-0
Studies of the vocal behavior of resident killer whales or orcas, Orcinus orca, in British Columbia have shown that matrilines have unique call repertoires consisting of up to 17 different call types. These call types cannot be attributed exclusively to specific behaviors, and their function in social contexts is poorly understood. This study investigated the change in call patterns of three resident matrilines in a changed social environment, before and up to one year after the birth of a calf. Acoustic data were collected with a network of hydrophones and were supplemented by visual observations. Call use changed distinctly after the birth of a calf in all three observed matrilines. All call types that were recorded in control situations were also recorded in postbirth situations; however, aberrant versions of discrete calls and excitement calls made up a higher proportion of calls after birth. Most conspicuously, family-specific call types occurred significantly more frequently in the days following a birth in two of the three matrilines and gradually returned to prebirth values within 2 weeks . Their increased use after a calf’s birth may facilitate the learning process of this “acoustic family badge” and thereby help to recognize and maintain cohesion with family members.