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The effect of habitat acoustics on common marmoset vocal signal transmission

Authors

  • Ryan J. Morrill,

    1. Cortical Systems and Behavior Laboratory, Department of Psychology, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California
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  • A. Wren Thomas,

    1. Cortical Systems and Behavior Laboratory, Department of Psychology, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California
    2. Hellen Wills Neuroscience Graduate Program, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, California
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  • Nicola Schiel,

    1. Laboratory of Applied and Theoretical Ethology, Department of Biology, Federal Rural University of Pernambuco, Recife, Brazil
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  • Antonio Souto,

    1. Laboratory of Ethology, Department of Zoology, Federal University of Pernambuco, Recife, Brazil
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  • Cory T. Miller

    Corresponding author
    1. Neurosciences Graduate Program, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California
    • Cortical Systems and Behavior Laboratory, Department of Psychology, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California
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Correspondence to: Cory Miller, University of California, San Diego, 9500 Gilman Dr. No. 0109, La Jolla, CA 92093. E-mail: corymiller@ucsd.edu

Abstract

Noisy acoustic environments present several challenges for the evolution of acoustic communication systems. Among the most significant is the need to limit degradation of spectro-temporal signal structure in order to maintain communicative efficacy. This can be achieved by selecting for several potentially complementary processes. Selection can act on behavioral mechanisms permitting signalers to control the timing and occurrence of signal production to avoid acoustic interference. Likewise, the signal itself may be the target of selection, biasing the evolution of its structure to comprise acoustic features that avoid interference from ambient noise or degrade minimally in the habitat. Here, we address the latter topic for common marmoset (Callithrix jacchus) long-distance contact vocalizations, known as phee calls. Our aim was to test whether this vocalization is specifically adapted for transmission in a species-typical forest habitat, the Atlantic forests of northeastern Brazil. We combined seasonal analyses of ambient habitat acoustics with experiments in which pure tones, clicks, and vocalizations were broadcast and rerecorded at different distances to characterize signal degradation in the habitat. Ambient sound was analyzed from intervals throughout the day and over rainy and dry seasons, showing temporal regularities across varied timescales. Broadcast experiment results indicated that the tone and click stimuli showed the typically inverse relationship between frequency and signaling efficacy. Although marmoset phee calls degraded over distance with marked predictability compared with artificial sounds, they did not otherwise appear to be specially designed for increased transmission efficacy or minimal interference in this habitat. We discuss these data in the context of other similar studies and evidence of potential behavioral mechanisms for avoiding acoustic interference in order to maintain effective vocal communication in common marmosets. Am. J. Primatol. 75:904–916, 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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