, Volume 28, Issue 3, pp 289-308

The study of vocal communication of wild mandrills in Cameroon in relation to their social structure

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Abstract

The vocal repertoire of the mandrill (Mandrillus sphinx), a forest living baboon, is described, and their vocal communication analyzed quantitatively. Although the vocal repertoire of mandrills corresponds well to that of savanna living baboons,Papio, some characteristics differed, such as the development of long-distance calls and differentiation of vocalizations between age-sex classes. Vocal communication within a group was closely related to changes in the spatial distribution of group members, and the two most common vocalizations, crowing and 2PG, appear to function as contact calls. Based on the wide dispersion of food trees, a group of mandrills divided into several feeding groups (subgroups). The two types of contact call were given in different and in some senses complementary contexts, and helped to facilitate and maintain group integration. According to their acoustic structure, these calls are long distance calls. Influenced by the high-level of attenuation of vocalization on the forest floor, the mandrill has developed them as contact calls, instead of using the contact “grunt,” which is common to the savanna living baboons. Comparing the patterns of vocal exchanges of mandrills with those of gelada and hamadryas baboons which have a multi-levelled society, the social structure of the mandrill is discussed. From the analysis of the spatial distribution of vocal emission, a number of clusters of vocalizations were obtained. These clusters correspond to subgroups. The frequent female-female and female-male vocal exchange between subgroups of mandrills suggest that the relationships between subgroups are less closed than between the one-male units of gelada and hamadryas baboons. Furthermore some of these clusters include more than two vocalizing adult males, while in other clusters there are no vocalizing adult males. Thus, the social structure of mandrills is suggested to be multi-male rather than a multilevelled type. The absence of contact calls specific for short distance and the functional replacement of the grunting of all group members by persistent emission of a loud call (2PG) by usually just one adult male suggests that the social structure of mandrills is not exactly equivalent to that of the multimale troop of savanna living baboons. Usually the use of 2PG is monopolized by one adult male travelling in the rear part of the group. Such monopolization of 2PG emission and the pattern of 2PG-2PG or 2PG-roar exchanges by adult males in some cases indicate the existence of strong dominance relationships among adult males, and especially the existence of a leader male within a multi-male group of mandrills.