, Volume 32, Issue 2, pp 169-182

Auditory assessment of avian predator threat in semi-captive ringtailed lemurs (Lemur catta)

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Antiraptor responses from forest-living ringtailed lemurs to advertisement calls of naturally-occurring red-tailed hawks suggested that the lemurs discriminated these calls from other environmental sounds. A series of playback experiments, using real animal sounds and synthetic sound probes, was conducted to investigate the acoustic basis of this putative discrimination. Two semi-captive groups of ringtails served as study subjects: one group had many years of experience living in the forest, whereas the other group had relatively little such experience. Responses to playbacks suggested that both groups used the same acoustic criteria to discriminate “calls of large hawks” from other sounds, but the range of auditory stimuli that evoked antiraptor responses was broader for the experienced group than for the inexperienced group. Although several interpretations of the experimental results are possible, one that seems particularly compatible with the data is the “prototype” concept of stimulus categorization.