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Communication Network Reflects Social Instability in a Wild Siamang (Symphalangus syndactylus) Population

Abstract

Long-range signaling, such as acoustic communication, is best understood within the broader context of all potential receivers. Exactly what kind of information is transmitted or obtained is a matter of debate. To address this issue, we describe the communication network of a population of wild siamangs (Symphalangus syndactylus), small territorial apes that sing loud and complex duets. Based on calling data collected over >3400 observation hours on 7 groups of wild siamangs, we used linear mixed-effects models to evaluate the effect of changes in group composition on singing rates and social network analysis to study the effect of social change on the structure of this siamang communication network. Results show that, compared to stable groups, groups whose composition had recently changed elicited significantly more responses to their calls from neighboring groups. These results support the hypothesis that listening individuals can take advantage of public information to detect points of social instability in the community, e.g., adult males seeking opportunities to obtain their own territory. Our results help explain some sociobiological conundrums concerning hylobatids, e.g., by highlighting a potential strategic benefit for males living in the multimale, single female groups that are reported in some species, advance our understanding of the function of calling in hylobatids, and offer theoretical and methodological insights applicable to other taxa such as birds and cetaceans.

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Acknowledgments

We are grateful to Laji, Tarmin, Usman, Maryadi, Mislan, Budi, and Opo for their professional data collection in the field, and the State Ministry of Research and Technology and Forestry Department of Indonesia for permission to conduct research in Sumatra. The editor and three anonymous reviewers provided constructive and valuable comments on an earlier draft of this article. Fieldwork for this study was funded by grants to LM from National Science Foundation (Grant ID 0726022) and Wenner-Gren Foundation (Grant 7766). The idea for this article was conceived during LM’s postdoctoral stay at Kyoto University’s Primate Research Institute (Japan), supported by a fellowship from the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS-PE 13017).

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LM and AJJM conceived the idea; LM conducted fieldwork; LM, AJJM, CS, and CP developed the methodology; CP, AJJM, and LM performed statistical and network analyses; LM wrote the manuscript. All authors contributed to the final version of the manuscript and gave their consent for publication.

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Correspondence to Luca Morino.

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Handling Editor: Joanna Setchell

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Supporting information (ESM Table SI) is available online.

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Morino, L., Pasquaretta, C., Sueur, C. et al. Communication Network Reflects Social Instability in a Wild Siamang (Symphalangus syndactylus) Population. Int J Primatol 42, 618–639 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10764-021-00227-1

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Keywords

  • Gibbon
  • Hylobatid
  • Mating strategies
  • Socioecology
  • Territoriality