Sexual dimorphism in the loud calls of Azara’s owl monkeys (Aotus azarae): evidence of sexual selection?

Abstract

Primates use different types of vocalizations in a variety of contexts. Some of the most studied types have been the long distance or loud calls. These vocalizations have been associated with mate defense, mate attraction, and resource defense, and it is plausible that sexual selection has played an important role in their evolution. Focusing on identified individuals of known sex and age, we evaluated the sexual dimorphism in a type of loud calls (hoots) in a population of wild owl monkeys (Aotus azarae) in Argentina. We found evidence of sexual dimorphism in call structure, with females and males only emitting one type of call, each differing in dominant frequency and Shannon entropy. In addition, both age-related and sex-specific differences in call usage were also apparent in response to the removal of one group member. Future acoustic data will allow us to assess if there are individual characteristics and if the structure of hoot calls presents differences in relation to the social condition of owl monkeys or specific sex responses to variants of hoot calls’ traits. This will provide deeper insights into the evolution of vocal mechanisms regulating pair bonding and mate choice strategies in this and other primate species.

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Acknowledgements

AGDLC acknowledges support from the Leakey Foundation and the Owl Monkey Project. EFD acknowledges support for the Owl Monkey Project (OMP) from the Wenner-Gren Foundation, L.S.B. Leakey Foundation, National Geographic Society, NSF-BCS-0621020 (2006), RAPID-1219368 (2011), 1232349 (2012), 1503753 (2014), DDIG-1540255 (2015), 1743395 (2017), 1848954 (2019); NSF-REU 0837921, 0924352, 1026991, National Institute on Aging (P30 AG012836-19, NICHD R24 HD-044964-11), University of Pennsylvania Research Foundation, and Zoological Society of San Diego. Research by the OMP has been approved by the University of Pennsylvania, Yale University, the Formosa Province Council of Veterinarian Doctors, the Directorate of Wildlife, the Subsecretary of Ecology and Natural Resources and the Ministry of Production. We thank Bellamar Estancias and Fundación E.C.O. for the continued support of the OMP and all the researchers who assisted in the field. We would also like to thank anonymous reviewers for comments on previous versions of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Alba Garcia de la Chica.

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Garcia de la Chica, A., Huck, M., Depeine, C. et al. Sexual dimorphism in the loud calls of Azara’s owl monkeys (Aotus azarae): evidence of sexual selection?. Primates 61, 309–319 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10329-019-00773-6

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Keywords

  • Vocal communication
  • Loud calls
  • Dimorphism
  • Sexual selection
  • Monogamy
  • Pair-living