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Keywords:

  • acoustic display;
  • bovids;
  • larynx;
  • polygyny;
  • ruminants;
  • sexual selection;
  • vocal tract;
  • vocalization

Abstract

Similar to male humans, Homo sapiens, the males of a few polygynous ruminants – red deer Cervus elaphus, fallow deer Dama dama and Mongolian gazelle Procapra gutturosa– have a more or less enlarged, low-resting larynx and are capable of additional dynamic vocal tract elongation by larynx retraction during their rutting calls. The vocal correlates of a large larynx and an elongated vocal tract, a low fundamental frequency and low vocal tract resonance frequencies, deter rival males and attract receptive females. The males of the polygynous goitred gazelle, Gazella subgutturosa, provide another, independently evolved, example of an enlarged and low-resting larynx of high mobility. Relevant aspects of the rutting behaviour of territorial wild male goitred gazelles are described. Video and audio recordings served to study the acoustic effects of the enlarged larynx and vocal tract elongation on male rutting calls. Three call types were discriminated: roars, growls and grunts. In addition, the adult male vocal anatomy during the emission of rutting calls is described and functionally discussed using a 2D-model of larynx retraction. The combined morphological, behavioural and acoustic data are discussed in relation to the hypothesis of sexual selection for male-specific deep voices, resulting in convergent features of vocal anatomy in a few polygynous ruminants and in human males.