Behavioral-psychological motivations encoded in the vocal repertoire of captive Amur tiger (Panthera tigris altaica) cubs.
Background: The Amur tiger (Panthera tigris altaica) is the largest and one of the most endangered cats in the world. In wild and captive cats, communication is mainly dependent on olfaction. However, vocal communication also plays a key role between mother and cubs during the breeding period. How cubs express their physiological and psychological needs to their mother and companions by using acoustic signals is little known and mainly hindered by the difficult process of data collection. Here, we quantitatively summarized the vocal repertoire and behavioral contexts of captive Amur tiger cubs. The aim of the present work was to investigate the behavioral motivations of cub calls by considering influential factors of age, sex, and rearing experiences. Results: The 5335 high-quality calls from 65 tiger cubs were classified into nine call types (Ar-1, Ar-2, Er, eee, Chuff, Growl, Hiss, Haer, and Roar) produced in seven behavioral contexts. Except for Er, eight of the nine call types were context-specific, related to Play (Ar-2, eee, and Roar), Isolation (Ar-1), Offensive Context (Haer, Growl, and Hiss), and a friendly context (Chuff). Conclusions: The results suggest that cubs are not quiet, but instead they express rich information by emitting various call types, which are probably crucial for survival in the wild. We herein provide the first detailed spectrogram classification to indicate vocal repertoires of calls and their coding with respect to behavioral contexts in Amur tiger cubs, and we pave the steps for revealing their social communication system, which can be applied for conservation of populations. These insights can help tiger managers or keepers to improve the rearing conditions by understanding the feline cubs' inner status and needs by monitoring their vocal information expressions and exchanges.