International Journal of Primatology

, Volume 38, Issue 3, pp 533–552 | Cite as

Female Songs of the Nonduetting Javan Gibbons (Hylobates moloch) Function for Territorial Defense

  • Soojung Ham
  • Susan Lappan
  • Daniela Hedwig
  • Jae Chun ChoeEmail author


Duets in territorial, pair-living primates may function to maintain intragroup cohesion, promote intergroup avoidance, and assist in territorial and resource defense, as well as advertising and reinforcing pair bonds. Despite the absence of duetting in Javan gibbons (Hylobates moloch), recent playback experiments suggested that Javan gibbon songs also play a role in pair-bond advertisement as well as territorial and mate defense. However, playback experiments only assess motivations of the listener, which may not reflect the motivations of the caller. We conducted an observational study of naturally occurring female songs in two groups of Javan gibbons from July 2009 to March 2010 and from March to November 2011 in Gunung Halimun–Salak National Park, Indonesia. We investigated female singing rates in relation to singing location, daily path length, occurrence of intergroup encounters, feeding rate, allogrooming rate, and distance between pair mates. The two females produced 47 songs during 164 observation days. Females in the area of their home range that overlapped with neighboring groups sang more frequently than expected based on time spent in the area of overlap vs. the home range interior. Groups also had longer daily path lengths on days when females sang than on nonsinging days, and on days when they visited the area of overlap than on nonvisiting days. Our findings indicate that, like the duets of other pair-living territorial primates, female Javan gibbon songs function for territorial defense, but we found no support for other functions such as intergroup avoidance, resource defense, and pair-bond reinforcement.


Nonduetting gibbons Primate long-distance calls Ranging behavior Social monogamy 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), and the Gunung Halimun-Salak National Park (GHSNP) 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 Christophe Boesch, Catherine Crockford and Kurt Hammerschmidt for their advice on the discussion of this manuscript, to Roger Mundry and Colleen Stephens for their help with statistical analysis, and to Joanna Setchell and two anonymous reviewers for many helpful comments on the manuscript. Thanks to Sanha Kim for contributions 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), German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the Max Planck Society (MPG), and Appalachian State University.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratory of Behavior and Ecology, Division of EcoScienceEwha Womans UniversitySeoulRepublic of Korea
  2. 2.Anthropology DepartmentAppalachian State UniversityBooneUSA
  3. 3.Department of PrimatologyMax Planck Institute for Evolutionary AnthropologyLeipzigGermany
  4. 4.Elephant Listening Project, Bioacoustics Research Program, Cornell Lab of OrnithologyCornell UniversityIthacaUSA
  5. 5.National Institute of EcologySeocheon, Chungcheongnam-doRepublic of Korea

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