OPEN PloS one | 8 Mar 2018
SN Linn, M Boeer and M Scheumann
Describing vocal repertoires represents an essential step towards gaining an overview about the complexity of acoustic communication in a given species. The analysis of infant vocalisations is essential for understanding the development and usage of species-specific vocalisations, but is often underrepresented, especially in species with long inter-birth intervals such as the white rhinoceros. Thus, this study aimed for the first time to characterise the infant and juvenile vocal repertoire of the Southern white rhinoceros and to relate these findings to the adult vocal repertoire. The behaviour of seven mother-reared white rhinoceros calves (two males, five females) and one hand-reared calf (male), ranging from one month to four years, was simultaneously audio and video-taped at three zoos. Normally reared infants and juveniles uttered four discriminable call types (Whine, Snort, Threat, and Pant) that were produced in different behavioural contexts. All call types were also uttered by the hand-reared calf. Call rates of Whines, but not of the other call types, decreased with age. These findings provide the first evidence that infant and juvenile rhinoceros utter specific call types in distinct contexts, even if they grow up with limited social interaction with conspecifics. By comparing our findings with the current literature on vocalisations of adult white rhinoceros and other solitary rhinoceros species, we discuss to which extent differences in the social lifestyle across species affect acoustic communication in mammals.
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