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Use of Trill Vocalizations To Coordinate Troop Movement Among White-Faced Capuchins: a Second Field Test

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The white-faced capuchin, Cebus capucinus, employed a specialized vocalization, the trill, to coordinate troop movement at La Selva, an Atlantic wet-forest study site in Costa Rica. We analyse the contexts in which this intra-group vocalization was emitted, including responses elicited from other group members. A cumulative 26.6 hours of continuous samples and 3,314 spectrograms (including 1,295 trills) were analysed from a study troop with 16 focal subjects. These results generally corroboratc the conclusions of a comparable field study of white-faced capuchins at Santa Rosa, a Pacific coast dry-forest site in Costa Rica (BOINSKI, 1993, Amer. J. Primatol. 30, p. 85-100). At both sites, (I) trills were closely associated with the initiation of movement by a stationary troop in a specific direction. (2) Trills were emitted at a much higher rate in the leading edge of a travelling troop than in following positions. (3) Individuals often reinforced the efforts of other troop members to coordinate troop movement. (4) Lack of consensus among troop members over the travel route was evident. (5) In rare instances trills were employed in tactical maneuvers suggestive of intentionality and the ability to anticipate behavioural effects. Differences in the usage of trills at these two sites were also detected. (1) At La Selva all troop members, with the exception of infants, used trills in the coordination of troop movement, whereas at Santa Rosa marked age, sex and rank distinctions in the extent of participation were apparent. (2) Capuchins at Santa Rosa altered the trajectory of travelling troops with trills, even reversing directions, but not at La Selva. These disparities may follow from differences between the sites in the extent of visual and auditory contact typical among troop members, social structure, susceptibility to predation, and possible genetic variation.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Anthropology and Division of Comparative Medicine, 1350 Tington, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611, U.S.A., Laboratory of Comparative Ethology, NICHD, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, U.S.A.; 2: Department of Anthropology, Washington University, St. Louis, MO 63130, U.S.A.


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