, Volume 64, Issue 12, pp 1959-1966
Date: 06 Jul 2010

Production of food-associated calls in wild male chimpanzees is dependent on the composition of the audience

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Abstract

Chimpanzees produce acoustically distinct calls when encountering food. Previous research on a number of species has indicated that food-associated calls are relatively widespread in animal communication, and the production of these calls can be influenced by both ecological and social factors. Here, we investigate the factors influencing the production of food-associated calls in wild chimpanzees and examine whether male chimpanzees produce food-associated calls selectively in the presence of important social partners. Male chimpanzees form stable long-term social relationships with each other, and these social bonds are vital in enabling a range of cooperative activities, such as group hunting and territory defence. Our data show that males were significantly more likely to produce food-associated calls if an important social partner was nearby, regardless of the size of the audience or the presence of oestrus females. Call production was also mediated by the size of the food patch and by whether or not the food could be monopolised. The presence of important social partners explained most of the variation in male calling behaviour, indicating that food-associated calls are socially directed and serve a bonding function.

Communicated by D. Watts