Sources of Acoustic Variation in Rhesus Macaque (Macaca mulatta))Vocalizations

Authors

  • Marc D. Hauser

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Zoology, University of California, Davis
      Animal Communication Laboratory, Department of Zoology, University of California, Davis, CA, 95616-8761, U.S.A.
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Animal Communication Laboratory, Department of Zoology, University of California, Davis, CA, 95616-8761, U.S.A.

Abstract

All species in the genus Macaca produce a set of harmonically rich vocalizations known as “coos”. Extensive acoustic variation occurs within this call type, a large proportion of which is thought to be associated with different social contexts such as mother-infant separation and the discovery of food. Prior studies of these calls have not taken into account the potential contributions of individual differences and changes in emotional or motivational state. To understand the function of a call and the perceptual salience of different acoustic features, however, it is important to determine the different sources of acoustic variation. I present data on the rhesus macaques' (M. mulatta) coo vocalization and attempt to establish some of the causes of acoustic variation. A large proportion of the variation observed was due to differences between individuals and to putative changes in arousal, not to differences in social context. Specifically, results from a discriminant-function analysis indicated that coo exemplars were accurately assigned to the appropriate individual, but vocal “signatures” were more variable in some contexts than in others. Moreover, vocal signatures may not always be reliable cues to caller identity because closely related individuals sound alike. Rhesus macaque coos evidently provide sufficient acoustic information for individual recognition and possibly kin recognition, but are unlikely to provide sufficient information about an external referent.

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