The Vocal Repertoire of Barbary Macaques: A Quantitative Analysis of a Graded Signal System


Deutsches Primatenzentrum, Abt. Neurobiologie, Kellnerweg 4, D-37077 Göttingen, Germany. E-mail:


The vocal behavior of Barbary macaques (Macaca sylvanus) was studied in an outdoor enclosure at Rocamadour, France. Ad libitum recordings were made across a broad array of socioecological contexts from 92 individually identified subjects from all age—sex classes. From the recordings, 8479 calls were sampled and submitted to a Fourier transform. A custom software program was used to determine 35 acoustic parameters describing the call in terms of its frequency and time dynamics. On these parameters a cluster analysis was used to examine the acoustic morphology of the Barbary macaque vocal repertoire. The analysis revealed a highly graded structure with intergraded variations between different clusters (‘call types’). There were clear age-related preferences in usage of different clusters, but animals of all ages were potentially able to produce the whole array of call types. The major sex difference was a differential use of certain call types in specific situations. Despite a clear sex dimorphism in body size no significant sex differences in the acoustic structure of calls in adults was found. There were no unidirectional relationships between the acoustic structure of a call and the context in which it was uttered, although call usage was more specific in some contexts than in others. The results suggest that the major factor underlying the variation in acoustic structure reflect the internal state of the caller.