Giant otters may have a vocal repertoire with 22 distinct vocalization types produced by adults and 11 neonate vocalization types, according to a study published November 12, 2014 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Christina Mumm and Mirjam Knörnschild from University of Ulm, Germany.
Giant otters, found in South America, are very social and frequently vocalizing animals. They live in groups that may vary, but generally include a reproductive pair and their offspring, born in different years. Individuals engage in shared group activities and hold different social roles, which provide a basis for complex and long-term relationships. To investigate the connection between vocalization and social complexity, the authors of this study recorded and analyzed the vocalizations of adult and neonate giant otters from wild and captive groups. They classified the adult vocalizations according to their acoustic structure, and described their main behavioral context. Additionally, they provided the first description of vocalizations uttered in babbling bouts of newborn giant otters, which the otters may use to practice for the full adult vocal repertoire.
Researchers found a vocal repertoire with 22 distinct vocalization types produced by adults and 11 vocalization types within the babbling bouts of the neonates. A comparison within the otter subfamily suggests a link between vocal and social complexity, with the giant otters possibly being the most socially and vocally complex subfamily species.
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Citation: Mumm CAS, Knornschild M (2014) The Vocal Repertoire of Adult and Neonate Giant Otters (Pteronura brasiliensis). PLoS ONE 9(11): e112562. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0112562
Funding: The German Academic Exchange Service granted a short time stipend for graduate students to CASM, D/10/520, which covered the travelling expenses for the data collection in Peru from September 12th to December 8th in 2011. The Landesgraduiertenforderung BadenWurttemberg is funding the graduate study of CASM, funding number 1104, 2012-2014. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.