The source-filter theory of vocal production supports the idea that acoustic signatures are preferentially coded by the fundamental frequency (source-induced variability) and the distribution of energy among the frequency spectrum (filter-induced variability). By investigating the acoustic parameters supporting individuality in lamb bleats, a vocalization which mediates recognition by ewes, here we show that amplitude modulation – an acoustic feature largely independent of the shape of the acoustic tract – can also be an important cue defining an individual vocal signature. Female sheep (Ovis aries) show an acoustic preference for their own lamb. Although playback experiments have shown that this preference is established soon after birth and relies on a unique vocal signature contained in the bleats of the lamb, the physical parameters that encode this individual identity remained poorly identified. We recorded 152 bleats from 13 fifteen-day-old lambs and analyzed their acoustic structure with four complementary statistical methods (ANOVA, potential for individual identity coding PIC, entropy calculation 2Hs, discriminant function analysis DFA). Although there were slight differences in the acoustic parameters identified by the four methods, it remains that the individual signature relies on both the temporal and frequency domains. The coding of the identity is thus multi-parametric and integrates modulation of amplitude and energy parameters. Specifically, the contribution of the amplitude modulation is important, together with the fundamental frequency F0 and the distribution of energy in the frequency spectrum.
Coding, vocalization, signal analysis, vocal signature, individual identity, mammals, sheep