Baboon loud calls advertise male quality: Acoustic features and their relation to rank, age, and exhaustion

  • Fischer J
  • Kitchen D
  • Seyfarth R
 et al. 
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Free-ranging adult male baboons give loud two-syllable 'wahoo' calls during dawn choruses, inter-actions between groups, when chasing females, and in aggressive interactions with other males. Previous re-search has shown that the rate and duration of these contest wahoos are correlated with a male's competitive ability: high-ranking males call more often, call at faster rates, and call for longer bouts than do low-ranking males. Here we report that acoustic features of wahoos also reveal information about male competitive ability. High-ranking males give wahoos with higher fundamental frequencies (F0) and longer 'hoo' syllables. Within-subject analyses revealed that, as males fall in rank, the hoo syllables tend to shorten within a period of months. As males age and continue to fall in rank, F0 declines, hoo syllables shorten, and formant dispersion decreases. Independent of age and rank, within bouts of calling F0 declines and hoo syllables become shorter. Because wahoos are often given while males are running or leaping through trees, variation in these acoustic features may function as an indicator of a male's stamina. The acoustic features of contest wahoos thus potentially allow listeners to assess a male's competitive ability.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Baboons
  • Honest signalling
  • Loud calls
  • Male quality
  • Vocal communication

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  • Julia FischerGerman Primate Center (DPZ)

  • Dawn M. Kitchen

  • Robert M. Seyfarth

  • Dorothy L. Cheney

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