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Individual Differences in Vocalisations of Young Barbary Macaques (Macaca Sylvanus): a Multi-Parametric Analysis To Identify Critical Cues in Acoustic Signalling

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It had been shown that Barbary macaque (Macaca sylvanus) mothers are able to individually recognise their offspring by its vocal signals, but it remained unclear which acoustical cues may account for such an ability. In order to address this issue from a basic perspective, about 1800 calls of infants and yearlings (N = 10) were investigated. The investigation applied a method of signal analysis which allowed to determine a large number of parameters (N = 84) for each vocal signal. The application of discriminant and cluster analyses provided the following results: (1) Animals differed in almost all call parameters. However, individuals were best identified by specific parameters which formed an individually characteristic parameter set. (2) Those parameters that facilitated the assignment of vocal patterns to a given individual usually were different among individuals. (3) Infants and yearlings achieved the same maximum value of correct assignment. However, infants achieved a reasonable assignment at a much smaller number of call parameters. (4) Cluster analysis of vocalisations revealed that Barbary macaques uttered individual versions of common call types. (5) When the discriminant analysis was rerun on the call clusters, the correct assignment could be improved from 81 % to 94% for infants and from 80.5% to 96% for yearlings. Our findings suggest that Barbary macaque mothers can recognise their offspring by more than one signal cue, and such a strategy may improve the recognition system's robustness against possible distortions caused by the environment. The pronounced differences in vocal patterns of young Barbary macaques may help mothers or other group members to readily learn and recognise the individually specific signal features. The methodological procedures described in this paper provide a powerful tool for an assessment of signal parameters also in other areas of vocal interactions.

Affiliations: 1: Institut für Verhaltensbiologie, Freie Universität Berlin, Haderslebener Strasse 9, D-12163 Berlin, Germany


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