Memory of mum's voice remains strong for young sea lions

May 27, 2010
Sea Lion mum with pup. Image by Rob Harcourt

(PhysOrg.com) -- Young sea lions are able to recognise their mother's voices long after they've been weaned, a new Macquarie University study has found. The research provides rare evidence of the long-term memory capacity of wild mammals.

The findings published last week in Science Online also appeared in the journal Animal Cognition this month.

PhD student Benjamin Pitcher, lead author of the study from Macquarie University's Graduate School of the Environment and fellow researchers in collaboration with Universite Paris Sud in France originally recorded the pup-attraction calls of six female Australian sea lions to test the pups ability to discriminate between the calls of their mother and another adult female during their first year while they were still dependent on their mother.

However, around two years later, they played back the recordings to pups that were now three and a half years old. Despite having been weaned at around one and half years old, the pups identified more strongly when hearing the sound of their mothers’ voices rather than the voices of other unknown females. Moreover, the researchers found that the pups not only looked at and called to the speaker - but in some cases, even approached it when they heard their mothers’ voices.

Pitcher said that elephants and fur seals are the only other known to have such long-term memories for the voices of others. He points out that it is especially helpful for animals that live in colonies to have a for voices, where social interactions play a large role in daily life. Also, there’s the matter of survival. A nursing pup that could not recognise its mother’s would starve.

“The bond between and pups is so strong that the memory of the mother stays with long after they leave their mum,” said Pitcher.

“This type of long memory may help the formation of more complex social systems in mammals.”

Explore further: Hermit creepy crawlies: Two new taxa of wood-feeding cockroach from China

Provided by Macquarie University

not rated yet
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Call of the Child

Jun 12, 2007

Like a student in a foreign country or a young mother trying to decipher her baby’s cries, we all encounter initially meaningless sounds that in fact carry meaning. With experience, we become better at detecting and discriminating ...

Study: Can hearing voices be a good thing?

Sep 13, 2006

British psychologists have launched a study to determine why some people who hear voices consider it a good experience, while others find it distressing.

Recommended for you

A vegetarian carnivorous plant

18 hours ago

Carnivorous plants catch and digest tiny animals in order and derive benefits for their nutrition. Interestingly the trend towards vegetarianism seems to overcome carnivorous plants as well. The aquatic carnivorous bladderwort, ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.