What is Communicated in the Antipredator Calls of Lemurs: Evidence from Playback Experiments with Ringtailed and Ruffed Lemurs


Department of Zoology, University of California, Davis, CA 95616, U.S.A.


Two hypotheses of signal specificity in antipredator calls (“referential signalling” and “response urgency”) are discussed in light of prior research on ground squirrels and vervet monkeys. These hypotheses then are examined with data on responses of semi-captive ringtailed and ruffed lemurs to antipredator call playbacks. Although the responses of ringtailed lemurs support a referential-signalling interpretation of their antipredator calls, those of ruffed lemurs do not conform well to either hypothesis. Rather, ruffed lemur antipredator calls seem best viewed as “affective” signals that may only reflect underlying emotional/motivational states.