Parent–offspring recognition is crucial for offspring survival. At long distances, this recognition is mainly based on vocalizations. Because of maturation-related changes to the structure of vocalizations, parents have to learn successive call versions produced by their offspring throughout ontogeny in order to maintain recognition. However, because of the difficulties involved in following the same individuals over years, it is not clear how long this vocal memory persists. Here, we investigated long-term vocal recognition in goats. We tested responses of mothers to their kids’ calls 7–13 months after weaning. We then compared mothers’ responses to calls of their previous kids with their responses to the same calls at five weeks postpartum. Subjects tended to respond more to their own kids at five weeks postpartum than 11–17 months later, but displayed stronger responses to their previous kids than to familiar kids from other females. Acoustic analyses showed that it is unlikely that mothers were responding to their previous kids simply because they confounded them with the new kids they were currently nursing. Therefore, our results provide evidence for strong, long-term vocal memory capacity in goats. The persistence of offspring vocal recognition beyond weaning could have important roles in kin social relationships and inbreeding avoidance.
Briefer, E. F., de la Torre, M. P., & McElligott, A. G. (2012). Mother goats do not forget their kids’ calls. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences, 279(1743), 3749-3755.