Proximate factors mediating "contact" calls in adult female baboons (Papio cynocephalus ursinus) and their infants.

Department of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania, USA.
Journal of Comparative Psychology (Impact Factor: 2.31). 04/2000; 114(1):36-46. DOI: 10.1037/0735-7036.114.1.36
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT "Contact" calls are widespread in social mammals and birds, but the proximate factors that motivate call production and mediate their contact function remain poorly specified. Field study of chacma baboons (Papio cynocephalus ursinus) revealed that contact barks in adult females were motivated by separation both from the group at large and from their dependent infants. A variety of social and ecological factors affect the probability of separation from either one or both. Results of simultaneous observations and a playback experiment indicate that the contact function of calling between mothers and infants was mediated by occasional maternal retrieval rather than coordinated call exchange. Mothers recognized the contact barks of their own infants and often were strongly motivated to locate them. However, mothers did not produce contact barks in reply unless they themselves were at risk of becoming separated from the group.

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    ABSTRACT: Contact calls are used to promote cohesion among individuals that live in social groups. Capybaras are very gregarious and often vocalize. This species emits a vocalization known as a click, which has been observed during aggregating and foraging behaviors, suggesting contact or monitoring call function. We carried out a playback experiment to evaluate behavioral responses to the capybara's click call and to a bird call, used as control in ten capybaras. We compared animals' latency to respond to stimuli, the time spent in behavioral patterns, alertness, head orientation toward the sound source, and approach to the sound source. All capybaras responded to the emission of the click call playback. Most of them assumed an alert position, showed head orientation toward the sound source, and approached the sound source. They promptly reacted to the first click call emission, while few reacted to the first bird call emission, used as control. All subjects showed behavioral changes after the second emission of the click call, and some responded to the third emission. Just three individuals answered after the first control emission, while none of them responded to the second and third emission of the playback. Therefore, click call playback promotes prompt behavioral changes in capybaras, including approach to the sound source. These results indicate that this vocalization functions as a contact or monitoring call in the species.
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    Animal Communication Theory: Information and Influence, Edited by Stegmann, U, 01/2013: chapter Animal signals: always influence, sometimes information: pages 259-280; Oxford University Press.

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