Visual cues do not enhance sea lion pups' response to multimodal maternal cues

Kaja Wierucka*, Isabelle Charrier, Robert Harcourt, Benjamin J. Pitcher

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    8 Citations (Scopus)
    14 Downloads (Pure)


    Mammals use multiple sensory cues for mother-offspring recognition. While the role of single sensory cues has been well studied, we lack information about how multiple cues produced by mothers are integrated by their offspring. Knowing that Australian sea lion (Neophoca cinerea) pups recognise their mother's calls, we first tested whether visual cues are used by pups to discriminate between conspecifics of different age classes (adult female vs pup). We then examined if adding a visual stimulus to an acoustic cue enhances vocal responsiveness of Australian sea lion pups, by presenting wild individuals with either a visual cue (female 3D-model), an acoustic cue (mother's call), or both simultaneously, and observing their reaction. We showed that visual cues can be used by pups to distinguish adult females from other individuals, however we found no enhancement effect of these cues on the response in a multimodal scenario. Audio-only cues prompted a similar reaction to audio-visual cues that was significantly stronger than pup response to visual-only cues. Our results suggest that visual cues are dominated by acoustic cues and that pups rely on the latter in mother recognition.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number9845
    Pages (from-to)1-7
    Number of pages7
    JournalScientific Reports
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 29 Jun 2018

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    Copyright the Author(s) 2018. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


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