In pinnipeds, maternal care strategies and colony density may influence a species' individual recognition system. We examined the onset of vocal recognition of mothers by Australian sea lion pups (Neophoca cinerea). At 2 months of age, pups responded significantly more to the calls of their own mothers than alien female calls demonstrating a finely tuned recognition system. However, newborn pups did not respond differentially to the calls of their mother from alien female calls suggesting that vocal recognition had not yet developed or is not yet expressed. These findings are in stark contrast to other otariid species where pups learn their mother's voice before their first separation. Variance in colony density, pup movements, and natal site fidelity may have reduced selective pressures on call recognition in young sea lions, or alternatively, another sensory system may be used for recognition in the early stage of life.