Communication and Perception
When at sea, Mirounga leonina rarely encounter each other and thus have no need for communication. The only time communication is used is during breeding. Males use their large proboscis as a sound chamber for amplifying their bellows. These sounds are made to establish territories and challenge males for established harems. Upright posturing often accompanies these vocalizations and males are known to visually assess their competitor before fighting. Lesser males will also exhibit a flattened posture without inflating their proboscis when near another male’s harem to demonstrate that they are not threats.
A threat vocalization is a low-pitched harsh vocalization. While the seal is doing this it will raise its head and forequarters off of the ground, supporting itself without fore flippers. A lunge from an animal is a rapid movement of the head towards an opponent or invader. This is done with an open mouth. A high rear is the raising of the front half of the body then delivering blows to another animal with the neck or chin. A bite may also be used, mainly from a low rear or a high rear position.
Females are known to communicate with newborn pups through vocalizations. Females and pups recognize each other through these vocal cues and through their individual smells. ("Elephant Seal", 2002; "Elephant Seals", 1983; "Southern Elephant Seal", 2003; Anderson, 2003; Gaskin, 1972; Nowak, 2003)