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Wild dwarf mongooses produce general alert and predator-specific alarm calls


Collier, Katie; Radford, Andrew N; Townsend, Simon W; Manser, Marta B (2017). Wild dwarf mongooses produce general alert and predator-specific alarm calls. Behavioral Ecology:Epub ahead of print.

Abstract

Many species produce alarm calls in response to predator threats. Whilst these can be general alert calls, some are urgency-based, indicating perceived threat level, some are predator-specific, indicating the predator type present, and some encode information about both urgency level and predator type. Predator-specific calls given to a narrow range of stimuli and which elicit a specific, adaptive, response from the receiver are termed functionally referential. Differing escape strategies, habitat structural complexity and sociality may favor the evolution of functionally referential calls. A study of one captive group of dwarf mongooses (Helogale parvula) suggested their alarm calls could transmit information about species, distance, and elevation of predators. Using recordings of natural predator encounters, predator presentations and audio playbacks, we investigated the alarm-call system in 7 wild dwarf mongoose groups.
We recorded 11 different alarm-call types given to 9 stimulus categories. Of the 5 commonly emitted alarm-call types, 3 appeared to be non-specific and 2 predator-specific, given to aerial and terrestrial predators respectively. The remaining 6 call types were rarely produced. Furthermore, aerial alarms were given to a narrower range of stimuli than their terrestrial alarm calls, which were given to both visible terrestrial predators and secondary cues of predators. Unlike other mongoose species, dwarf mongoose seem to use the same alarm-call type for both physically present terrestrial predators and secondary cues of their presence. We argue that detailed knowledge of species’ alarm-call systems under natural conditions can shed light on the evolutionary emergence of different types of alarm calls.

Abstract

Many species produce alarm calls in response to predator threats. Whilst these can be general alert calls, some are urgency-based, indicating perceived threat level, some are predator-specific, indicating the predator type present, and some encode information about both urgency level and predator type. Predator-specific calls given to a narrow range of stimuli and which elicit a specific, adaptive, response from the receiver are termed functionally referential. Differing escape strategies, habitat structural complexity and sociality may favor the evolution of functionally referential calls. A study of one captive group of dwarf mongooses (Helogale parvula) suggested their alarm calls could transmit information about species, distance, and elevation of predators. Using recordings of natural predator encounters, predator presentations and audio playbacks, we investigated the alarm-call system in 7 wild dwarf mongoose groups.
We recorded 11 different alarm-call types given to 9 stimulus categories. Of the 5 commonly emitted alarm-call types, 3 appeared to be non-specific and 2 predator-specific, given to aerial and terrestrial predators respectively. The remaining 6 call types were rarely produced. Furthermore, aerial alarms were given to a narrower range of stimuli than their terrestrial alarm calls, which were given to both visible terrestrial predators and secondary cues of predators. Unlike other mongoose species, dwarf mongoose seem to use the same alarm-call type for both physically present terrestrial predators and secondary cues of their presence. We argue that detailed knowledge of species’ alarm-call systems under natural conditions can shed light on the evolutionary emergence of different types of alarm calls.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
590 Animals (Zoology)
Uncontrolled Keywords:alarm calls, functional reference, Herpestidae , predator-specific, sociality, vocal communication.
Language:English
Date:2017
Deposited On:02 Aug 2017 17:39
Last Modified:02 Aug 2017 17:39
Publisher:Oxford University Press
ISSN:1045-2249
Funders:University of Zurich Research Priority Program: Evolution in Action
Additional Information:This is a pre-copy-editing, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in Behavioral Ecology following peer review. The definitive publisher-authenticated version Katie Collier, Andrew N. Radford, Simon W. Townsend, Marta B. Manser; Wild dwarf mongooses produce general alert and predator-specific alarm calls. Behav Ecol 2017 arx091 is available online at https://doi.org/10.1093/beheco/arx091
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1093/beheco/arx091

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