Wednesday, February 18, 2015

SOUNDS OF KENYA: Whoops large and small

So far on our blog's SOUNDS OF KENYA series, Kenna and I have brought you the sounds of many different animals in the Mara, including the dulcet sounds of the tree hyraxvultures fighting over a carcasshyenas vomiting, as well as gnu grunting, zebra barking, and, most recently, vervet monkey alarm calls. While sharing these recordings with all of you blog readers is a great bonus, it is not the only reason Kenna carted a ridiculous amount of recording equipment out to the Mara. The real goal of bringing this recording equipment out on obs with us every day is to record hyena vocalizations, particularly hyena whoops.

Whoops are rarer than other hyena vocalizations like groans or giggles, so it is always very exciting when we get a recording of a whoop. Whoops are long distance vocalizations that are used to convey information about the caller's identity and location, and to call in support. Adult males usually whoop as a sexual display, either to attract females or to intimidate other males. Adult females mostly whoop to call in back up during fights with lions or other hyena clans over carcasses (East & Hofer 1991).

An adult female whooping at a lion-hyena fight over a carcass
Photo by P Parker-Shames
A subadult running around whooping in excitement at a lion-hyena interaction.
Photo by P Parker-Shames
This is a recording of an adult male from Happy Zebra clan, Anne Arbor, whooping near the den. Despite the difficulty of catching a male whoop from a known hyena, we hear these whoops all night from camp.

Cubs also whoop, sometimes as self advertisement and sometimes to call for their mom's support when they get nervous during antagonistic interactions or after being approached by someone other than their mom (East & Hofer 1991). A whoop from a tiny, month old cub, however, sounds quite different than the adult equivalent.
Thneed, looking around for his mom from the den hole and getting ready to whoop
East, M.L. & Hofer, H. (1991). Loud calling in a female-dominated mammalian society. II.
Behavioral contexts and functions of whooping of spotted hyaenas, Crocuta crocuta. —
Anim. Behav. 42: 651-669.


dee said...

My foster dog Phoebe LOVED the whoops! So did I. Thanks

Lily J-U said...

Awww cub whoops so adorable ahhh I LOVE hearing cubs whoop!! I remember when EREM and PIKE were denning at Windsor and there were two holes less than 10m apart. EREM started to carrying cub1 to the other hole while cub2 started to follow. Cub2 then freaked out after 2m and runs back to the original hole. Then- so concerned about getting left behind starts to whoop. (Despite the fact that EREM is still within 10m he needed to use a long-distance call to alert her.) The grass was very very tall so she may have been out of sight to him). In the end both cubs ran back to the original hole and EREM gave up on trying to get them both into hole2. I think Emily and I died from cute-squee overload at EREM's babies when they were wee little black cubs. (This was spyro and falkor before we could tell them apart).

Michigan State University | College of Natural Science