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Context-specific close-range "hoo" calls in wild gibbons (Hylobates lar).

Clarke E, Reichard UH, Zuberbühler K - BMC Evol. Biol. (2015)

Bottom Line: Our study provides evidence that lar gibbons are able to generate significant, context-dependent acoustic variation within their main social call, which potentially allows recipients to make inferences about the external events experienced by the caller.Communicating about different events by producing subtle acoustic variation within some call types appears to be a general feature of primate communication, which can increase the expressive power of vocal signals within the constraints of limited vocal tract flexibility that is typical for all non-human primates.In this sense, this study is of direct relevance for the on-going debate about the nature and origins of vocally-based referential communication and the evolution of human speech.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Evolutionary Anthropology Research Group, Dawson Building, Durham University, Durham, DH1 3LE, UK. e.a.clarke@durham.ac.uk.

ABSTRACT

Background: Close range calls are produced by many animals during intra-specific interactions, such as during home range defence, playing, begging for food, and directing others. In this study, we investigated the most common close range vocalisation of lar gibbons (Hylobates lar), the 'hoo' call. Gibbons and siamangs (family Hylobatidae) are known for their conspicuous and elaborate songs, while quieter, close range vocalisations have received almost no empirical attention, perhaps due to the difficult observation conditions in their natural forest habitats.

Results: We found that 'hoo' calls were emitted by both sexes in a variety of contexts, including feeding, separation from group members, encountering predators, interacting with neighbours, or as part of duet songs by the mated pair. Acoustic analyses revealed that 'hoo' calls varied in a number of spectral parameters as a function of the different contexts. Males' and females' 'hoo' calls showed similar variation in these context-specific parameter differences, although there were also consistent sex differences in frequency across contexts.

Conclusions: Our study provides evidence that lar gibbons are able to generate significant, context-dependent acoustic variation within their main social call, which potentially allows recipients to make inferences about the external events experienced by the caller. Communicating about different events by producing subtle acoustic variation within some call types appears to be a general feature of primate communication, which can increase the expressive power of vocal signals within the constraints of limited vocal tract flexibility that is typical for all non-human primates. In this sense, this study is of direct relevance for the on-going debate about the nature and origins of vocally-based referential communication and the evolution of human speech.

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Spectrographic illustration of a single hoo showing how acoustic measurements were taken. Intercall interval was measured as the end of one hoo to the beginning of the next. Intensity was measured using PRAAT’s automated analysis scripts.
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Fig4: Spectrographic illustration of a single hoo showing how acoustic measurements were taken. Intercall interval was measured as the end of one hoo to the beginning of the next. Intensity was measured using PRAAT’s automated analysis scripts.

Mentions: The following six acoustic parameters were extracted from calls based on ECs observations and MJ Owren and CD Linker [76]: duration (s); intensity (dB); peak frequency (Hz), low frequency (Hz), delta frequency (Hz) and inter-call interval (s) (see Figure 4 for illustrations; data available in LabArchives repository [77]).Figure 3


Context-specific close-range "hoo" calls in wild gibbons (Hylobates lar).

Clarke E, Reichard UH, Zuberbühler K - BMC Evol. Biol. (2015)

Spectrographic illustration of a single hoo showing how acoustic measurements were taken. Intercall interval was measured as the end of one hoo to the beginning of the next. Intensity was measured using PRAAT’s automated analysis scripts.
© Copyright Policy - open-access
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License 1 - License 2
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC4389582&req=5

Fig4: Spectrographic illustration of a single hoo showing how acoustic measurements were taken. Intercall interval was measured as the end of one hoo to the beginning of the next. Intensity was measured using PRAAT’s automated analysis scripts.
Mentions: The following six acoustic parameters were extracted from calls based on ECs observations and MJ Owren and CD Linker [76]: duration (s); intensity (dB); peak frequency (Hz), low frequency (Hz), delta frequency (Hz) and inter-call interval (s) (see Figure 4 for illustrations; data available in LabArchives repository [77]).Figure 3

Bottom Line: Our study provides evidence that lar gibbons are able to generate significant, context-dependent acoustic variation within their main social call, which potentially allows recipients to make inferences about the external events experienced by the caller.Communicating about different events by producing subtle acoustic variation within some call types appears to be a general feature of primate communication, which can increase the expressive power of vocal signals within the constraints of limited vocal tract flexibility that is typical for all non-human primates.In this sense, this study is of direct relevance for the on-going debate about the nature and origins of vocally-based referential communication and the evolution of human speech.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Evolutionary Anthropology Research Group, Dawson Building, Durham University, Durham, DH1 3LE, UK. e.a.clarke@durham.ac.uk.

ABSTRACT

Background: Close range calls are produced by many animals during intra-specific interactions, such as during home range defence, playing, begging for food, and directing others. In this study, we investigated the most common close range vocalisation of lar gibbons (Hylobates lar), the 'hoo' call. Gibbons and siamangs (family Hylobatidae) are known for their conspicuous and elaborate songs, while quieter, close range vocalisations have received almost no empirical attention, perhaps due to the difficult observation conditions in their natural forest habitats.

Results: We found that 'hoo' calls were emitted by both sexes in a variety of contexts, including feeding, separation from group members, encountering predators, interacting with neighbours, or as part of duet songs by the mated pair. Acoustic analyses revealed that 'hoo' calls varied in a number of spectral parameters as a function of the different contexts. Males' and females' 'hoo' calls showed similar variation in these context-specific parameter differences, although there were also consistent sex differences in frequency across contexts.

Conclusions: Our study provides evidence that lar gibbons are able to generate significant, context-dependent acoustic variation within their main social call, which potentially allows recipients to make inferences about the external events experienced by the caller. Communicating about different events by producing subtle acoustic variation within some call types appears to be a general feature of primate communication, which can increase the expressive power of vocal signals within the constraints of limited vocal tract flexibility that is typical for all non-human primates. In this sense, this study is of direct relevance for the on-going debate about the nature and origins of vocally-based referential communication and the evolution of human speech.

Show MeSH
Related in: MedlinePlus