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Pandas hear more than we do

Sensitivity beyond human range may have conservation implications

Date:
March 22, 2016
Source:
Zoological Society of San Diego
Summary:
A new study may help conservationists understand the potential for human activities to disturb giant pandas in native habitats. Using captive pandas, conservation scientists worked with animal care specialists to determine pandas' range of hearing sensitivity, discovering that they can detect sound into the ultrasonic range. Because giant pandas depend in large part on information transmitted through vocalizations for reproductive success, noise from human activities in or near forest areas could be disruptive.
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Panda bear eating bamboo (stock image). Conservation scientists worked with animal care specialists to determine pandas' range of hearing sensitivity, discovering that they can detect sound into the ultrasonic range.
Credit: © Kwangmoo / Fotolia

A study published in the journal Global Ecology and Conservation may help field conservationists better understand the potential for human activities to disturb endangered giant pandas in native habitats. Using pandas located at the San Diego Zoo, conservation scientists worked with animal care specialists to determine pandas' range of hearing sensitivity, discovering that they can detect sound into the ultrasonic range. Because giant pandas depend in large part on information transmitted through vocalizations for reproductive success, noise from human activities in or near forest areas could be disruptive.

"An understanding of a species' hearing provides a foundation for developing estimates of noise disturbance," said Megan Owen, associate director of giant panda conservation, San Diego Zoo Global. "For the giant panda, vocalizations are typically emitted in proximity to conspecifics (members of the same species), however the ability to discriminate between fine-scale differences in vocalizations is important for successful reproduction; and so, a thorough understanding of acoustic ecology is merited in order to estimate the potential for disturbance.

"In order to learn about panda hearing, researchers at the San Diego Zoo worked with giant pandas to teach them to respond, if they could hear sounds at a particular pitch and loudness, thus communicating their ability to hear across the acoustic spectrum," Owen said.

"Through this study, the pandas at the San Diego Zoo have made a significant contribution to our understanding of what may be affecting panda reproduction in habitats in China," said Ron Swaisgood, director of applied animal ecology, San Diego Zoo Global. "It is only because of the strong relationship that animal care staff have with the bears at the Zoo that we have been able to gather this information."


Story Source:

Materials provided by Zoological Society of San Diego. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Megan A. Owen, Jennifer L. Keating, Samuel K. Denes, Kathy Hawk, Angela Fiore, Julie Thatcher, Jennifer Becerra, Suzanne Hall, Ronald R. Swaisgood. Hearing sensitivity in context: Conservation implications for a highly vocal endangered species. Global Ecology and Conservation, 2016; 6: 121 DOI: 10.1016/j.gecco.2016.02.007

Cite This Page:

Zoological Society of San Diego. "Pandas hear more than we do: Sensitivity beyond human range may have conservation implications." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 March 2016. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/03/160322133822.htm>.
Zoological Society of San Diego. (2016, March 22). Pandas hear more than we do: Sensitivity beyond human range may have conservation implications. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 28, 2017 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/03/160322133822.htm
Zoological Society of San Diego. "Pandas hear more than we do: Sensitivity beyond human range may have conservation implications." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/03/160322133822.htm (accessed May 28, 2017).

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