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Thomas Langurs (Presbytis thomasi) Discriminate Between Calls of Young Solitary Versus Older Group-living Males: a Factor in Avoiding Infanticide?

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The ability to differentiate among calls from different individuals has been shown for a number of animal species and several functions have been suggested. One hypothesis, developed for lions (Panthera leo), is that the ability to distinguish between calls from neighbour versus strange males is linked to the avoidance of infanticidal ( i.e. strange) males. Since infanticide is widespread among primates, we tested the applicability of this hypothesis to Thomas langurs (Presbytis thomasi). Young adult males, that mostly reside in all-male bands or are solitary (called AMB males), were more likely to be infanticidal than adult, usually older, males that reside in mixed-sex groups (called MSG males). We use playbacks to demonstrate that Thomas langurs are able to differentiate between loud calls from AMB male strangers and MSG male strangers. Thomas langur males responded more vigorously to playbacks of calls from AMB (i.e. more likely to be infanticidal) males than to calls from MSG males. Females showed a more cautious response to the calls from AMB males than to the calls from MSG males. Both these reactions are in accordance with the infanticide hypothesis and suggest that Thomas langurs differentiate between loud calls of AMB and MSG stranger males and incorporate this information in their behaviour to avoid infanticide.


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