Reproductive strategies of Weddell seals in McMurdo Sound, Antarctica: relationship among vocalizations, behaviors, and social interactions
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Phocid seals (true seals, Order Carnivora, Family Phocidae) use a diverse array of breeding habitats and strategies, and produce many vocalizations. Therefore, phocids are well suited as subjects for study of reproductive strategies and the role of vocalizations in species mating at sea. However, the amount of information is still limited for aquatically breeding pinnipeds. Using underwater audio and video recordings of Weddell seals (Leptonychotes weddellii) interacting in McMurdo Sound, I compared the frequencies of vocalizations and behaviors of males and females during the mating season. I also investigated differences in these frequencies based on the social context. Finally, I identified patterns of vocalizations and behaviors to help determine the behavioral context of calls and used this information as a basis for considering the degree of ritualization in Weddell seal displays. Mews, growls, knocks, and trills were found to be almost exclusively male-specific. The territorial male produced chirps more often when another male was present in its territory; whereas, mews and growls were more frequent when one or more free-ranging females were present. Several vocal and behavioral padeparture of the territorial male into or from the breathing hole. In the context of an evolutionary-based model of communication, these findings suggest that low-frequency vocalizations and stereotyped displays produced by territorial males may have been favored by sexual selection: they may provide reliable information to females about the fitness of the signaler and influence their choice of mate. They may also help in limiting conflicts between the territorial male and females over access to the breathing hole.
Rousseau, Ludivine Blandine (2003). Reproductive strategies of Weddell seals in McMurdo Sound, Antarctica: relationship among vocalizations, behaviors, and social interactions. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Texas A&M University. Available electronically from