Bar-fight aficionados might benefit from some elephant-seal knowledge.

Which is to say, male elephant seals know which fights to get into and which to avoid. As it happens, researchers from University of California, Santa Cruz say that each male can tell by another's distinctive vocal call whether he is a subordinate or a dominant male-then they avoid the dominant males, the scientists recently reported in the journal Royal Society Open Science.

This doesn't mean the average seal beach is calm and quiet. No, it is loud, and male elephant seals engage in bloody fights for access to females. But they choose carefully-in the course of a breeding season, only about 5 percent of interactions between males lead to a conflict, according to a release.

Male elephant seals participate in ritualized displays-loud vocalizations, rearing up to show an elevated profile, and sometimes slamming their chests onto the sand to send a seismic signal. The "alpha" males with high ranking defend their groups of female seals from all challengers, the release said.

When researchers recorded various calls, they found that males responded aggressively when they heard subordinate males call, but they moved away when they heard the call of a dominant male. When scientists played calls from one beach at another beach, the male seals "either ignored the (recording) speaker or seemed hesitant to respond, like they were looking for more information," said graduate student Caroline Casey in the release.