Parental care is widespread in Archosaurs (birds, crocodilians, dinosaurs and pterosaurs), and this group provides a useful model for the evolution of parent-offspring interactions. While offspring signalling has been well-studied in birds, the modulation of parental care in crocodilians remains an open question. Here we show that acoustic communication has a key role in the dynamics of crocodilian’ mother-offspring relationships. We found embedded information about the emitter’s size in juvenile calls of several species, and experimentally demonstrated that Nile crocodile mothers breeding in the wild are less receptive to the calls of larger juveniles. Using synthetized sounds, we further showed that female’ reaction depends on call pitch, an important cue bearing size information. Changes in acoustic interactions may thus go with the break of maternal care as well as dispersal of juvenile crocodilians. This process could have characterized other archosaurs displaying rapid early growth such as dinosaurs and pterosaurs.
Chabert, T., Colin, A., Aubin, T., Shacks, V., Bourquin, S. L., Elsey, R. M. . . . Mathevon, N. (2015). Size does matter: crocodile mothers react more to the voice of smaller offspring. Scientific Reports, 5, 15547. doi:10.1038/srep15547.