As the only living species within the odobenid lineage of carnivores, walruses (Odobenus rosmarus) have no close relatives from which auditory information can be extrapolated. Sea lions and fur seals in the otariid lineage are the nearest evolutionary outgroup. To advance understanding of odobenid and otariid hearing, we conducted behavioral testing with two walruses and one California sea lion (Zalophus californianus). Detection thresholds for airborne sounds were measured from 0.08 to at least 16 kHz in ambient noise conditions and then re-measured in the presence of octave-band white masking noise. Walruses were more sensitive than the sea lion at lower frequencies and less sensitive at higher frequencies. Critical ratios for the walruses ranged from 20 dB at 0.2 kHz to 32 dB at 10 kHz, while critical ratios for the sea lion ranged from 16 dB at 0.2 kHz to 35 dB at 32 kHz. The masking values for these species are comparable to one another and to those of terrestrial carnivores, increasing by about 3 dB per octave with increasing frequency. Despite apparent differences in hearing range and sensitivity, odobenids and otariids have a similar ability to hear signals in noisy conditions.

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