Vocal Communication in a Fission-Fusion Society: Do Spider Monkeys Stay in Touch With Close Associates?
In fission-fusion societies, in which animals from the same group may spend long periods of time apart from each other, individuals could use long-distance vocalizations to maintain contact with others. This could be achieved with vocalizations that simply carried information about the caller's identity and location. I explored this possibility using observations and experiments from a 3-year field study of spider monkeys (Ateles geoffroyi) in Punta Laguna, México, analyzing the use of the species' most frequent vocalization, the whinny. By following 2 subgroups simultaneously, I found that subgroups that were within the active space of the whinny approached each other more often than subgroups that were farther apart. Individual adults in these subgroups also emitted more whinnies when they were within hearing range of another subgroup than when farther apart. I used a paired playback design to determine whether whinnies could influence the behavior of close associates as opposed to nonassociated individuals. Although nonassociates were as likely as close associates to respond vocally to playbacks of whinnies, only a close associate ever approached the speaker. Collectively, the results suggest that whinnies are used by spider monkeys to achieve flexibility in spacing while maintaining specific social relationships.
Keywordsfission-fusion contact calls spider monkeys playback experiments
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