[MARMAM] New publication: Feel the beat: Cape fur seal males encode their arousal state in their bark rate

Mathilde Martin mathilde.martin at universite-paris-saclay.fr
Sun Dec 12 11:06:38 PST 2021

Dear all,

On behalf of my co-authors, I am pleased to inform you our new 
publication in The Science of Nature "Feel the beat: Cape fur seal males 
encode their arousal state in their bark rate"

Mathilde Martin, Tess Gridley, Simon Harvey Elwen, Isabelle Charrier

Abstract: The cape fur seal is one of the most colonial mammal species 
in the world. Breeding colonies are composed of harems
held by mature males (older than 10 years) with up to 30 females and 
their pups, while roaming subadult males (younger
and socially immature) are kept away from bulls’ territories. As in 
other pinnipeds, cape fur seals are highly vocal and use
acoustic signals in all their social interactions. Males produce 
barks—short vocalizations always produced in sequences—for
territorial defense, mating behaviors, and agonistic interactions. These 
calls convey information about the sex, age class, and
individual identity. This study investigated whether motivational cues 
such as the arousal state can be encoded in territorial
males’ barks and whether these cues are decoded by listening sub-adult 
males. The rate (number of calls per unit of time)
and fundamental frequency of barks were found to significantly increase 
during high arousal state interactions (i.e., malemale
confrontation) compared to spontaneous barks. Playback experiments 
revealed that subadult males responded with a
higher level of vigilance when territorial males’ barks had a faster 
bark rate. This mechanism of decoding the bulls’ arousal
state from barks will likely constitute an advantage for both bulls and 
the subadult males, by avoiding or reducing physical
conflicts, and thereby reducing energy expenditure and the risk of 
injury. This study is the first experimental evidence of
cape fur seals’ using vocal rhythmic patterns to modulate their social 

Here is the link to a view-only version of our paper: https://rdcu.be/cC2Vu

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions,

Best regards,

*Mathilde MARTIN*
PhD Student

Acoustic Communications Team, Department Cognition & Network Neuroscience
NeuroPSI - Paris-Saclay Institute of Neuroscience
151 rue de la Rotonde, 91400 Saclay, FRANCE

Tel: +33 (0)1 69 82 63 56
Email: mathilde.martin at universite-paris-saclay.fr
Website: https://mathildemartin-research.com/
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