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African wild dog pup vocalizations with special reference to Morton's model

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African wild dog (Lycaon pictus) pup vocalizations were studied in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe for weeks 3 through 7 of the socialization period. Here we present the vocal repertoire, including the use of repetitive and mixed sounds, and investigate the extent to which the emerging sound system of Lycaon conforms to predicted design features of Morton's (MS) motivation-structural rules. Features of the pup sound system are highlighted by comparison with adults and other social canids.

Data were collected at three den sites (litter sizes: 8, 8, and 9) of two study packs. A total of 1903 vocalizations were classified, and eight vocal classes and seven subclasses were identified. Although all sounds identified persist into adulthood, observations indicate a delayed onset in some vocal classes, including both the lowest (i.e. rumbles) and highest (i.e. twitters) frequency sounds. As predicted by the (MS) model, pups invested heavily in high frequency, harmonic care/social soliciting sounds (91%, N = 1586 unmixed vocalizations), however, no clear association between acoustic structure and sound repetition was found. Significantly more repetition was heard in all vocal classes with the exception of moans and barks. Intra-pack aggression is generally muted in this obligate social carnivore suggesting that repetition may be a low cost strategy to induce social outcomes and obtain food. The patterning of mixed vocalizations (N = 317) was consistent with the (MS) model. Given the high degree of cooperation necessary for individual survival, the predominant use of cross-mixed sounds may serve to minimize conflict as pups begin to form relationships with littermates and adults. Noisy/noisy sounds were exceptionally rare. Comparative data suggest a relationship between the early patterning of mixed sounds and species-specific social organization in canids.

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