Repertoire, Structure, and Individual Variation of Vocalizations in the Sea Otter

TitleRepertoire, Structure, and Individual Variation of Vocalizations in the Sea Otter
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1995
AuthorsMcShane, Laura J., Estes James A., Riedman Marianne L., and Staedler Michelle M.
JournalJournal of Mammalogy
ISBN Number0022-2372
EndNote Rec Number12407
Keywordsage structure, cetaceans, climate change, fisheries, growth, killer whales, marine ecosystems, marine mammals, north pacific, ocean noise, pinnipeds, river dolphins, sequential megafaunal collapse, sirenians, whales

Vocalizations of the California sea otter (Enhydra lutris nereis) were recorded from wild and captive adults and young and analyzed spectrographically. Parameters measured from the sonagrams included fundamental frequency, duration, maximum frequency, intercall interval, and the location and amplitude of energy peaks. We identified 10 basic vocal categories, one of which consisted of graded signals. The contexts for each call, when known or suspected, are described. Discriminant analysis of the spectrographic parameters for the scream call showed significant differences among individuals for adult females and young. Using only the parameters quantified, each call was assigned correctly to the individual that produced it with 80% accuracy for mothers and 75% for young, thus, indicating that the potential exists for individual vocal recognition in the sea otter. The sea otter's vocal repertoire is similar in complexity to that of certain pinnipeds, but may be less complex than that of several species of social cetaceans and primates. In general, the sea otter's vocal patterns have characteristics thought to be most suitable for short-range communication among familiar individuals.