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Keywords:

  • communication;
  • sociality;
  • evolution;
  • lemur;
  • Madagascar

Abstract

Dispersed pair-living primates provide a unique model for illuminating the evolution of mechanisms regulating spacing and cohesiveness in permanently cohesive groups. We present for the first time data on the spatiotemporal distribution and loud-calling behavior of the Milne Edwards' sportive lemur, known to forage solitarily during the night, but to form stable male-female sleeping groups during the day. Data include radio-tracking observations of sleeping associations, and focal follows of pair partners during dispersal in the evenings and reunions in the mornings. Male-female pairs forming stable sleeping associations during the day were pair-bonded. They used sleeping sites and home ranges exclusively, and exchanged loud calls at potentially restricted resources during dispersal in the evenings and during reunion in the mornings. Direct agonistic conflicts between pairs and others were rare. The acoustic analysis of loud calls revealed nine major call types. They carry signatures for sex and pair identity, and provide the substrate for signaling and the potential for recognizing pair ownership. Thus, pairs use loud call exchanges as a vocal display for signaling territory ownership, thus limiting direct aggressive encounters between neighbors and strangers. Altogether, our findings provide the first empirical evidence for the hypothesis that loud calling has evolved as a key mechanism for regulating space use and cohesiveness in dispersed pair-living primates. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2006. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.