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Journal of Ethology

, Volume 37, Issue 2, pp 167–174 | Cite as

Alarm call modification by prairie dogs in the presence of juveniles

  • Grete E. Wilson-HenjumEmail author
  • Jacob R. Job
  • Megan F. McKenna
  • Graeme Shannon
  • George Wittemyer
Article

Abstract

While several drivers of wildlife alarm calls have been identified, recent work on the impact of the audience on the plasticity of alarm calling indicates that intraspecific communication can drive this behavior. We build on this literature by assessing changes in call characteristics in black-tailed prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus) in the presence of recently emerged juveniles. Alarm calls were elicited by approaching individuals, and then recorded using a shotgun microphone. Presence and distance of pups were noted prior to recording. Alarm calls were analyzed for changes in spectral and temporal characteristics relative to those of adults that were not in the immediate presence of pups. Our analyses indicated that adult prairie dogs lowered the central concentration of energy in their alarm calls when calling in the presence of pups. This may show that prairie dogs are conscious of the type of alarm call produced based on the behavioral context of calling and potentially the audience receiving the message. Furthermore, this may support the hypothesis that alarm calling is intended to reach conspecifics, rather than to send a message to the predator itself.

Keywords

Cynomys ludovicianus Vocal plasticity Signal receiver Audience affect Acoustic ecology Black-tailed prairie dog Altruism Call characteristics 

Notes

Funding

This study was funded without any grants. The recording equipment was borrowed from the National Park Service’s Natural Sounds and Night Skies Division.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

This research was approved according to Colorado State University Animal Care and Use Committee protocol 13-4112A. All the authors consent to the publication of this paper.

Supplementary material

10164_2018_582_MOESM1_ESM.docx (34 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 34 kb)

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Copyright information

© Japan Ethological Society and Springer Japan KK, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation BiologyColorado State UniversityFort CollinsUSA
  2. 2.National Park Service Natural Sounds and Night Skies DivisionFort CollinsUSA
  3. 3.School of Natural SciencesBangor UniversityBangorUK

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