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Abstract

Stringency in the identification of conspecific call properties is essential among sympatric species to ensure conspecific mating, as the risk of improper recognition and heterospecific mating is high. In this study we investigated the basic signal structure required for intraspecies communication in the Chinese alligator (Alligator sinensis), a species that has no relatives living in sympatry, by playback of signals modified in the temporal (truncating original bellows with first 1/4, 1/2, 3/4 or last 1/4, 1/2, 3/4 portion) or frequency domain (with low- or high-pass filters at frequencies 100, 250, 500 and 1000 Hz), or by reversal of natural bellows. The playback experiments revealed that relatively large modifications in bellow temporal or frequency structure failed to impair Chinese alligators’ bellowing behavior; even reversed bellows effectively evoked a positive response. In general, the first half of the bellow in temporal domain and frequencies below 500 Hz were critical for behavioral induction, while the last half of the bellow in temporal domain and frequencies above 500 Hz failed to produce a single positive response, implying a potential functional signal redundancy. The observed high tolerance to bellow variations in Chinese alligators may be an evolutionary adaptation to (1) the acoustic constraints of propagation imposed by dense vegetative habitats; or (2) a lack of selection pressure due to the low risk of incorrect conspecific recognition and heterospecific mating.