Sex differences in the acoustic structure of vowel-like grunt vocalizations in baboons and their perceptual discrimination by baboon listeners

  • Rendall D
  • Owren M
  • Weerts E
 et al. 
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This study quantifies sex differences in the acoustic structure of vowel-like grunt vocalizations in baboons (Papio spp.) and tests the basic perceptual discriminability of these differences to baboon listeners. Acoustic analyses were performed on 1028 grunts recorded from 27 adult baboons (11 males and 16 females) in southern Africa, focusing specifically on the fundamental frequency (F0) and formant frequencies. The mean F0 and the mean frequencies of the first three formants were all significantly lower in males than they were in females, more dramatically so for F0. Experiments using standard psychophysical procedures subsequently tested the discriminability of adult male and adult female grunts. After learning to discriminate the grunt of one male from that of one female, five baboon subjects subsequently generalized this discrimination both to new call tokens from the same individuals and to grunts from novel males and females. These results are discussed in the context of both the possible vocal anatomical basis for sex differences in call structure and the potential perceptual mechanisms involved in their processing by listeners, particularly as these relate to analogous issues in human speech production and perception.

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  • Drew Rendall

  • Michael J. Owren

  • Elise Weerts

  • Robert D. Hienz

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