Vocal anatomy, tongue protrusion behaviour and the acoustics of rutting roars in free-ranging Iberian red deer stags (Cervus elaphus hispanicus)


Roland Frey, Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) PO Box 60 11 03, D-10252 Berlin, Germany. E: frey@izw-berlin.de


Roaring in rutting Iberian red deer stags Cervus elaphus hispanicus is unusual compared to other subspecies of red deer, which radiated from the Iberian refugium after the last glacial maximum. In all red deer stags, the larynx occupies a permanent low mid-neck resting position and is momentarily retracted almost down to the rostral end of the sternum during the production of rutting calls. Simultaneous with the retraction of the larynx, male Iberian red deer pronouncedly protrude the tongue during most of their rutting roars. This poses a mechanical challenge for the vocal tract (vt) and for the hyoid apparatus, as tongue and larynx are strongly pulled in opposite directions. This study (i) examines the vocal anatomy and the acoustics of the rutting roars in free-ranging male C. e. hispanicus; (ii) establishes a potential mechanism of simultaneous tongue protrusion and larynx retraction by applying a two-dimensional model based on graphic reconstructions in single video frames of unrestrained animals; and (iii) advances a hypothesis of evaporative cooling by tongue protrusion in the males of a subspecies of red deer constrained to perform all of the exhausting rutting activities, including acoustic display, in a hot and arid season.