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Abstract

In order to test whether ‘coo’ calls of young rhesus macaques, Macaca mulatta, undergo some modifications during early development, and to explore which factors may influence these changes, we studied the ontogeny of their contact call, the ‘coo’ call. Vocalizations were recorded during brief periods of social separation. Infants were either raised with their mothers and other conspecifics, or separated from their mothers at birth and housed in a nursery with other infants. We recorded calls uttered in the separation context from 20 infants. We digitized the first 50 calls of a given series and subjected them to a Fourier transform. From each frequency–time spectrum, we extracted 65 acoustic parameters using a software program (LMA 5.9). We then used a cluster analysis to separate the ‘coo’ calls from other call types. With increasing age, the ‘coos’ dropped in pitch and became more even. The course of amplitude became more constant and the call duration increased slightly. Nevertheless, we found a high intra-individual variation throughout the 5 mo. Neither rearing condition nor sex had any apparent influence on age-related changes in ‘coo’ structure. With one exception, all parameters that correlated with age could be explained by variation in weight. Therefore, we conclude that growth is the main factor accounting for the observed changes.