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Loud Calls in Great Apes: Sex Differences and Social Correlates

  • Gottfried Hohmann
  • Barbara Fruth

Abstract

If one were to scan the literature on primate behavior accumulated during the last two decades, one single taxon, the great apes, would likely dominate. Switching the key word to “communication” would already decrease the bias drastically, and when selecting for “vocal communication”, the taxon would produce a rather marginal file (Marler, 1976; Marler and Tenaza, 1977). Behaving “almost human” in some aspects, there is no evidence that vocal communication by the great apes exceeds that of other non-human primates. This view is certainly biased. Until recently, we knew little about the structure and function of their natural vocal repertoires. Instead, researchers taught chimpanzees sign language and other artificial communication systems (for reviews see Sebeok and Umiker-Sebeok, 1980; Wallman, 1992). These studies may have quantified the cognitive abilities of the subjects but little was learned about the mode of natural communication among conspecifics. The picture is slowly changing. Long term field studies on all four species permit systematic research of vocal communication of focal individuals. Studies of animals in captivity use the advantages of more controlled conditions to evaluate the functional significance of particular calls. In the field, attention focused on elements of the vocal repertoire which are likely to facilitate distance communication. For several reasons this bias is not surprising. First, these loud calls are easy to detect by human researchers even against high levels of background noise. Second, because of their high amplitude and other physical adaptations for long-range transmission, loud calls are easy to record. Third, loud calls are of special interest because they are thought to encode and transmit information exclusively in an acoustic manner. Finally, field observations on various primate species have demonstrated that conspecifics’ responses to loud calls are both detectable and predictable. This is in contrast to most of the other elements which either elicit no obvious behavioral response or a variety of different responses.

Keywords

Spider Monkey Vocal Behavior Mountain Gorilla Vocal Communication Loud Call 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gottfried Hohmann
    • 1
    • 2
  • Barbara Fruth
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Max-Planck-GesellschaftForschungsstelle für HumanethologieAndechsGermany
  2. 2.Zoologisches InstitutUniversität MünchenMünchenGermany

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