[MARMAM] Recent publication: Geographic variation in harp seal pup vocalizations and mother-pup behavior

Ilse van Opzeeland Ilse.van.Opzeeland at awi.de
Wed Jul 15 07:26:56 PDT 2009

Dear Marmamers, 

We are pleased to announce the recent publication on geographic variation in
harp seal (Pagophilus groenlandicus) pup vocalizations and mother-pup
behavior. This article was publised online in Aquatic Biology, with open


Van Opzeeland IC, Corkeron PJ, Risch D, Stenson G, Van Parijs SM (2009)
Geographic variation in vocalizations of pups and mother-pup behavior of
harp seals Pagophilus groenlandicus. Aquatic Biology 6: 109-120

All harp seal populations form breeding aggregations on the Arctic pack ice.
However, pack ice conditions vary spatially and temporally among these
aggregations with variation in environmental and oceanographic conditions,
which may affect the behavioral interactions between mothers and their
newborn pups. We investigated the variation in mother-pup behavior between
harp seal breeding aggregations in the NE (Greenland Sea) and NW Atlantic
coastal shelf region (Front). Acoustic cues provided by the pups are thought
to be important in facilitating reunions with their mothers. Consequently,
we measured variation in vocal parameters among seals to investigate
geographic differences in pup vocalizations. Classification trees showed a
distinctive split between Front and Greenland Sea pup vocalizations. There
were no clear differences between male and female pups at the Front, where
42% of male and 38% of female pup calls could be attributed to a given
individual. This contrasts with the Greenland Sea, where 55% of
vocalizations of female pups were attributed to individuals compared with
only 8% for males. Analyses of behavioral observations of mother-pup pairs
made in the afternoon and evening showed that pups in the Greenland Sea
suckled more and were more alert than pups in the Front. Further, mother-pup
attendance patterns differed between sites. Mothers at the Front attended
their pups 85.1% of the time, whereas mothers in the Greenland Sea attended
their pups 52.2% of the time. These substantial differences between sites
might be related to evolutionary changes in behavior resulting from
commercial hunting or variable environmental conditions.


Ilse Van Opzeeland

I.C. Van Opzeeland 
Alfred Wegener Institute 
for Polar and Marine Research
Ocean Acoustics Lab
Am Alten Hafen 26
27568 Bremerhaven
Phone: +49-471-4831-1169
Fax:     +49-471-4831-1149
Web:    www.awi.de/acoustics

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