, Volume 96, Issue 5, pp 575–584 | Cite as

The vocal repertoire in a solitary foraging carnivore, Cynictis penicillata, may reflect facultative sociality

  • Aliza Le Roux
  • Michael I. CherryEmail author
  • Marta B. Manser
Original Paper


We describe the vocal repertoire of a facultatively social carnivore, the yellow mongoose, Cynictis penicillata. Using a combination of close-range observations, recordings and experiments with simulated predators, we were able to obtain clear descriptions of call structure and function for a wide range of calls used by this herpestid. The vocal repertoire of the yellow mongooses comprised ten call types, half of which were used in appeasing or fearful contexts and half in aggressive interactions. Data from this study suggest that the yellow mongoose uses an urgency-based alarm calling system, indicating high and low urgency through two distinct call types. Compared to solitary mongooses, the yellow mongoose has a large proportion of ‘friendly’ vocalisations that enhance group cohesion, but its vocal repertoire is smaller and less context-specific than those of obligate social species. This study of the vocal repertoire of the yellow mongoose is, to our knowledge, the most complete to have been conducted on a facultatively social species in its natural habitat.


Mongoose Sociality Urgency-based Vocal repertoire 



We thank Tim Clutton-Brock, University of Cambridge, for support and use of the study site at the Kuruman River Reserve. Thanks go to Helen Eaton and Samuel Guiton for their assistance in data collection, and Linda Hollén and Lucia di Lorio for assistance with analysis of vocalisations. We would like to thank the Roche Research Foundation (Switzerland), Harry Crossley Trust and National Research Foundation (South Africa) for financial support during this study. MBM was financed by the Swiss National Science Foundations, SNF-Förderprofessur Nr 631-066129. This study was conducted with ethical clearance from the Ethical Committee of the University of Stellenbosch and under licence from the Northern Cape Department of Nature Conservation, South Africa.

Supplementary material

114_2008_506_MOESM1_ESM.doc (47 kb)
Table 1 Acoustic description of call types used by the yellow mongoose. N refers to sample sizes. Subsets of these calls were used in discriminant function analyses, as described in the text (DOC 47.0 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Aliza Le Roux
    • 1
    • 3
  • Michael I. Cherry
    • 1
    Email author
  • Marta B. Manser
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Botany and ZoologyUniversity of StellenboschMatielandSouth Africa
  2. 2.Animal Behaviour, Department of ZoologyUniversity of ZurichZurichSwitzerland
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

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