Dialects in Elephant Seals

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Science  26 Dec 1969:
Vol. 166, Issue 3913, pp. 1654-1656
DOI: 10.1126/science.166.3913.1654


Threat vocalizations of male elephant seals Mirounga angustirostris vary among four populations on islands off the coast of California and Baja California, Mexico. Males at San Nicolas Island in Southern California emit sound pulses at more than double the rate of males at Aũo Nuevo Island, 528 kilometers north. Mean pulse rates at San Miguel Island and Isla de Guadalupe (408 and 944 kilometers south of Aũo Nuevo, respectively) are intermediate to these two. Pulse rate is homogeneous within each population and consistent in the same individual. Other properties of the calls which separate populations are pulse duration and embellishment of the initial or terminal pulse in a series. These geographical differences in vocal behavior resemble local dialects in birds and humans.

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