Song Functions in Nonduetting Gibbons: Evidence from Playback Experiments on Javan Gibbons (Hylobates moloch)
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Territorial, pair-living primates usually perform long-distance calls as duets in which adult males and females coordinate their calls. Previous studies using playback experiments have shown that gibbon duets convey information about the status of the caller (location, familiarity, sex of the caller, and paired status) and gibbons use this information to respond to achieve several nonmutually exclusive functions, including intragroup contact, territorial defense, and pair-bond advertisement and strengthening. However, not all pair-living gibbons duet, and it is unclear whether the same results should be expected in nonduetting species. We conducted song playback experiments (N = 47 trials) to test hypotheses about song functions in nonduetting gibbons on two groups of wild Javan gibbons (Hylobates moloch) in the Gunung Halimun-Salak National Park, Indonesia. Javan gibbons initiated movement toward the speaker more quickly in response to songs broadcast in the center of the territory, stranger songs, and songs of unpaired individuals than to songs at the border, neighbor songs, and songs from paired individuals. These results suggest that Javan gibbons can localize songs, and that Javan gibbon songs transmit information about the identity and paired status of the caller. Our results imply that Javan gibbon solo songs are likely to function for territorial defense and pair-bond advertisement like duets in other primates.
KeywordsHylobates moloch Information transmission Javan gibbons Nonduetting gibbons Primate duets Song functions
This project was conducted in collaboration with the Department of Natural Resource Conservation and Ecotourism at the Institut Pertanian Bogor (IPB). We thank the Indonesian Ministry of Research and Technology (RISTEK), the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry’s Department for the Protection and Conservation of Nature (PHKA), the Gunung Halimun-Salak National Park (GHSNP), and the Gunung Gede-Pangrango National Park (GGPNP) for granting us research permissions. We thank Rinekso Soekmadi, Agus Hikmat, Dones Rinaldi, Bambang Supriyanto, and GHSNP staff for their assistance and cooperation. We are grateful to Dirk Meyer, Thomas Geissmann, Agung Ismail, and Rahayu Oktaviani for providing gibbon recordings for the use in playback experiments. We are grateful to Christophe Boesch and Catherine Crockford for their advice on the discussion, to Roger Mundry for his help on statistical analyses and constructive comments that substantially improved the quality of the manuscript, and to Joanna Setchell and two anonymous reviewers for many helpful comments on the manuscript. We thank Sanha Kim for contributing to the establishment of the field site and advice on the progress of this study and the manuscript; Sunyoung Ahn for administrative support and coordination; and Aris, Nui, Sahri, Ami, and Jaya for assistance in the field. The authors declare that none of us have any conflict of interest in this research. This research was financially supported by the Amore Pacific Academic and Cultural Foundation (AACF), Ewha Womans University, National Institute of Ecology (NIE), the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the Max Planck Society (MPG), and Appalachian State University.
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