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Variation in the emission rate of sounds in a captive group of false killer whales Pseudorca crassidens during feedings: possible food anticipatory vocal activity?

Sara PLATTO;WANG Ding;WANG Kexiong;Key Laboratory of Aquatic Biodiversity and Conservation of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Institute of Hydrobiology, Chinese Academy of Sciences;  
This study examines whether a group of captive false killer whales(P seudorca crassidens) showed variations in the vocal rate around feeding times. The high level of motivation to express appetitive behaviors in captive animals may lead them to respond with changes of the behavioral activities during the time prior to food deliveries which are referred to as food anticipatory activity. False killer whales at Qingdao Polar Ocean World(Qingdao, China) showed significant variations of the rates of both the total sounds and sound classes(whistles, clicks, and burst pulses) around feedings. Precisely, from the Transition interval that recorded the lowest vocalization rate(3.40 s/m/d), the whales increased their acoustic emissions upon trainers' arrival(13.08 s/m/d). The high rate was maintained or intensified throughout the food delivery(25.12 s/m/d), and then reduced immediately after the animals were fed(9.91 s/m/d). These changes in the false killer whales sound production rates around feeding times supports the hypothesis of the presence of a food anticipatory vocal activity. Although sound rates may not give detailed information regarding referential aspects of the animal communication it might still shed light about the arousal levels of the individuals during different social or environmental conditions. Further experiments should be performed to assess if variations of the time of feeding routines may affect the vocal activity of cetaceans in captivity as well as their welfare.
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