Adults penguins use their voice to communicate four basic messages to other penguins, scientists have found.
And juveniles and chicks use two begging calls to demand food, according to a study in the journal PLOS ONE by Livio Favaro and colleagues from the University of Turin, Italy.
African penguins use their voice to communicate with their parents, mates, and colony members.
However, only basic descriptions of their calls currently exist.
In the new study, the scientists collected, categorised, and acoustically analysed hundreds of audio and video vocal recordings from a large captive colony of penguins in Italy.
They also identified the behavioural contexts in which calls were made.
Results show that four basic vocalisations can be found in the auditory repertoire of the adult African penguin: a contact call emitted by isolated birds, a call used in aggressive interactions, an ecstatic display song uttered by single birds during the breeding season, and a mutual display song vocalized by pairs at their nests.
The authors also identified two distinct vocalisations interpreted as begging calls by nesting chicks (begging peep) and unweaned juveniles (begging moan).
Since the colony is captive, the authors can’t be sure they’ve identified all possible vocalisations but they suggest this analysis helps to standardise known calls which can be used in further study of these endangered penguins.
See the penguins in action as they run through their call signs:
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