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Retraction of the mobile descended larynx during groaning enables fallow bucks (Dama dama) to lower their formant frequencies.


McElligott, A G; Birrer, M; Vannoni, E (2006). Retraction of the mobile descended larynx during groaning enables fallow bucks (Dama dama) to lower their formant frequencies. Journal of Zoology, 270(2):340-345.

Abstract

A permanently descended larynx is found in humans and several other species of mammals. In addition to this, the larynx of species such as fallow deer is mobile and in males it can be retracted during vocalization. The most likely explanation for the lowered retractable larynx in mammals is that it serves to exaggerate perceived body size (size exaggeration hypothesis) by decreasing the formant frequencies of calls. In this study, we quantified for the first time the elongation of the vocal tract in fallow bucks during vocalization. We also measured the effect of this vocal tract length (VTL) increase on formant frequencies (vocal tract resonances) and formant dispersion (spacing of formants). Our results show that fallow bucks increase their VTL on average by 52% during vocalization. This elongation resulted in strongly lowered formant frequencies and decreased formant dispersion. There were minimal changes to formants 1 and 2 (−0.91 and +1.9%, respectively) during vocal tract elongation, whereas formants 3, 4 and 5 decreased substantially: 18.9, 10.3 and 13.6%, respectively. Formant dispersion decreased by 12.4%. Formants are prominent in deer vocalizations and are used by males to gain information on the competitive abilities of signallers. It remains to be seen whether females also use the information that formants contain for assessing male quality before mating.

A permanently descended larynx is found in humans and several other species of mammals. In addition to this, the larynx of species such as fallow deer is mobile and in males it can be retracted during vocalization. The most likely explanation for the lowered retractable larynx in mammals is that it serves to exaggerate perceived body size (size exaggeration hypothesis) by decreasing the formant frequencies of calls. In this study, we quantified for the first time the elongation of the vocal tract in fallow bucks during vocalization. We also measured the effect of this vocal tract length (VTL) increase on formant frequencies (vocal tract resonances) and formant dispersion (spacing of formants). Our results show that fallow bucks increase their VTL on average by 52% during vocalization. This elongation resulted in strongly lowered formant frequencies and decreased formant dispersion. There were minimal changes to formants 1 and 2 (−0.91 and +1.9%, respectively) during vocal tract elongation, whereas formants 3, 4 and 5 decreased substantially: 18.9, 10.3 and 13.6%, respectively. Formant dispersion decreased by 12.4%. Formants are prominent in deer vocalizations and are used by males to gain information on the competitive abilities of signallers. It remains to be seen whether females also use the information that formants contain for assessing male quality before mating.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Zoology (former)
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
590 Animals (Zoology)
Language:English
Date:2006
Deposited On:11 Feb 2008 12:15
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 12:14
Publisher:Wiley-Blackwell
ISSN:0952-8369
Publisher DOI:10.1111/j.1469-7998.2006.00144.x

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