Goat kid recognition of their mothers' calls is not impacted by changes in fundamental frequency or formants

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)297-307
Number of pages11
Journal / PublicationJournal of Zoology
Issue number4
Online published21 Oct 2022
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022



Features varying more between than within individuals are considered as potential cues for individual recognition. According to the source-filter theory of vocal production, the fundamental frequency of mammals' vocalizations depends on the characteristics of vocal folds, while Formants are determined by the characteristics of the vocal tract. Goat mothers and their kids (Capra hircus) display mutual recognition, and both source-related parameters (f0) and filter-related ones (Formants) have been shown to be individualized. Here, we aimed to identify if f0 and Formants are used by goat kids to recognize their mother's vocalizations. To do this, we independently modified these parameters in calls of goat mothers to different degrees (within or exceeding the range of natural intra-individual variability), and we played back these modified calls to their kids. We found no effect of f0 or Formants modification on the kids' reactions. Further analyses revealed that goat kids emitted fewer calls when modifications to f0 resulted in higher values of the first energy quartile, suggesting a role of the distribution of energy in the spectrum in maternal recognition. We propose that either: (i) f0 and Formants are not involved in goats' maternal recognition; (ii) goat kids have a tolerance for variation when recognizing their mother's calls that exceeds the performed shifts in these parameters; or (iii) goat kid maternal recognition is based on a combination of features and might be more flexible than previously thought, such that when one feature is modified, kids focus on other features. The effect of the spectral energy distribution modification on the kid responses, which depends both on f0 and Formant heights, suggests that (iii) is a likely explanation. Our findings support the hypothesis of complex individual acoustic recognition from the early stages of development in ungulates.

Research Area(s)

  • Capra hircus, acoustic recognition, bioacoustics, maternal calls, mother-offspring relationships, source-filter theory, vocal communication, vocal recognition

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