, Volume 6, Issue 2, pp 129-159

Evolution of Acoustic Communication Signals of Mammals: Friendly Close-Range Vocalizations in Felidae (Carnivora)

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Abstract

The distribution of the three friendly close-range vocalization types known in the Felidae was plotted on a recently published phylogeny of the cat family (Felidae) based on sequence comparisons of two mitochondrial DNA genes and other molecular and biochemical characters, with extrapolated divergence ages of its various lineages. It was found to be congruent with this phylogeny. One of the sound types is likely to be present in 30 species of the family (documented in 22 so far), another is present in 4, and the third in 2 species only; these sound types represent a phylogenetic transformation series. The latter two vocalization types also differ considerably from the first in the mode of sound production. From this, evolutionary conservatism over a long epoch for the one widespread vocalization type can be inferred, and less conservatism in the type present in four species, while the emergence of the least common type is evidence of relatively considerable and rapid evolutionary change. Thus, acoustic communication signals in a group of taxa can evolve at considerably different rates, and for a specific character this rate can differ between different lineages of that group. The ultimate causes of the evolutionary stability or of the subsequent relatively rapid change in sound structure and mode of sound production in these felid vocalizations are unknown.