International Journal of Primatology

, Volume 27, Issue 1, pp 5–25

Sexual Selection in the Loud Calls of Male Primates: Signal Content and Function


DOI: 10.1007/s10764-005-9001-4

Cite this article as:
Delgado, R.A. Int J Primatol (2006) 27: 5. doi:10.1007/s10764-005-9001-4

Researchers have used sexual selection theory and hypotheses based on intersexual mate choice and intrasexual mate competition to explain the role of spontaneous long-distance vocalizations emitted by adult male primates, relying on the tacit assumption that assessment or identity cues are encoded in the vocalizations. I review the published literature and aim to substantiate a relationship between sexual selection and long-distance vocal communication in primates. First, I review findings from nonprimate taxa to determine the relative importance of inter- and intrasexual selection and to provide a background for examining primates. Next, I describe several hypotheses for signal content and function in adult male loud calls. Then, I examine the available data across Primates for evidence to support or to refute these hypotheses and to determine if they meet proposed criteria for demonstrating sexual selection [Snowdon, C. T. (2004). Sexual Selection in Primates: New and Comparative Perspectives]. Signal content refers to patterns of acoustic features within vocalizations from which listeners might extract cues or information about the signaler. I interpret signal function, in turn, from behavioral responses of receivers and assume it has ultimate effects on the evolution and design of acoustic signals if direct fitness consequences exist. After the general review across primates, I propose orangutans as a candidate species for further evaluation of sexual selection in vocal communication. The available evidence corroborates a demonstrable relationship between sexual selection and adult male loud calls based on individual recognition, but it is necessary to obtain additional data to affirm a direct benefit to reproductive success.


functionindividual recognitionmale loud callssexual selectionsignalcontent

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Biological Anthropology & AnatomyDuke UniversityDurhamUSA
  2. 2.Department of AnthropologyHunter College CUNYNew YorkUSA