Field study shows titi monkeys convey both location and predator type with vocal alarms

Sep 04, 2013 by Bob Yirka report
Dusky Titi Monkey (Callicebus brunneus). Credit: Wikipedia

(Phys.org) —A team of researchers from the U.K. and Brazil has found that black-fronted titi monkeys are able to convey two types of information in their vocal alarms: location and predator type. As the team notes in their paper published in the journal Biology Letters, this is the first known instance of an animal other than human that is able to convey both types of alarms in one sequence of vocal alarms.

Over the years study by various researchers has determined that calls, screeches and other noises made by animals convey far more information than had been originally thought. Many species have been found to use vocal callings to warn others in their group of impending danger. Chief among them are calls to warn of that have wandered into the vicinity. Some animals call out to warn of the type of predator, others to let others know where the threat lies. Titi have, apparently, learned to convey both types of information by connecting different types of sounds together.

To learn more about titi monkeys and what their calls might mean, the research team ventured into a part of Brazil known as Minas Gerais—it's a private nature preserve. There they placed stuffed versions of two types of animals that kill and eat titis when they can catch them: a bird of prey known as a caracara and oncilla, a predatory cat. Some of the stuffed predators were placed on the ground, while others were placed in the . After doing so, the researchers recorded the calls made by the titis in the area.

In analyzing the recordings, the researchers discovered that the monkeys emitted a series of noises when sending out alarms. Those patterns, they learned came in four distinct variants: one to indicate a bird in a tree, another a bird on the ground, one to indicate a cat on the ground and another that meant there was a cat in a tree. The sounds were individualized by changing the pitch, moving from a low to a high sound, or vice versa. In essence, the monkeys had developed a sort of Morse code.

The researchers suggest that their mode of study is likely the reason they discovered the unique talent of the monkeys, rather than a true uniqueness of ability. They suspect similar studies of other animals will likely reveal a similar capability.

Explore further: Snooping on neighbours gives animals the upper paw

More information: Titi monkey call sequences vary with predator location and type, Published 4 September 2013 DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2013.0535

Abstract
Animal alarm calls can encode information about a predator's category, size, distance or threat level. In non-human primates, alarm calls typically refer to broad classes of disturbances, in some instances to specific predators. Here, we present the results of a field experiment with a New World primate, the black-fronted titi monkey (Callicebus nigrifrons), designed to explore the information conveyed by their alarm call system. Adults produced sequences consisting of two main alarm call types that conveyed, in different parts of the utterance, information about a predator's type and location. In particular, sequence compositions differed depending on whether the predator was a mammalian carnivore or a raptor, and whether it was detected in a tree or on the ground. This is the first demonstration of a sequence-based alarm call system in a non-human animal that has the capacity to encode both location and type of predatory threat.

Related Stories

Island monkeys do not recognize big cat calls

Jan 17, 2008

Monkeys living on an island without big cat predators do not show any particular alarm when recorded tiger growls are played to them, according to research by a UC Davis graduate student. The pig-tailed langurs do, however, ...

Syntax in our primate cousins

Dec 11, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- A study carried out in Ivory Coast has shown that monkeys of a certain forest-dwelling species called Campbell's monkeys emit six types of alert calls. The primates combine these calls into ...

Stress may explain vocal mimicry in Bowerbirds

May 11, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Spotted Bowerbirds (Ptilonorhynchus maculatus) are best known for their nests, but these birds are also capable of mimicking the vocalizations of many different species of birds. It was be ...

Snooping on neighbours gives animals the upper paw

Jul 12, 2013

(Phys.org) —Animals that have developed the ability to eavesdrop on their neighbours may have the edge when it comes to finding food and expanding their habitat, a new study by researchers at The University ...

Recommended for you

Male monkey filmed caring for dying mate (w/ Video)

Apr 18, 2014

(Phys.org) —The incident was captured by Dr Bruna Bezerra and colleagues in the Atlantic Forest in the Northeast of Brazil.  Dr Bezerra is a Research Associate at the University of Bristol and a Professor ...

Orchid named after UC Riverside researcher

Apr 17, 2014

One day about eight years ago, Katia Silvera, a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, Riverside, and her father were on a field trip in a mountainous area in central Panama when they stumbled ...

In sex-reversed cave insects, females have the penises

Apr 17, 2014

Researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on April 17 have discovered little-known cave insects with rather novel sex lives. The Brazilian insects, which represent four distinct but re ...

Fear of the cuckoo mafia

Apr 17, 2014

If a restaurant owner fails to pay the protection money demanded of him, he can expect his premises to be trashed. Warnings like these are seldom required, however, as fear of the consequences is enough to ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Anne123
1 / 5 (1) Sep 04, 2013
Oohhh nice post.
atechplanet.com
upcomingfashions.com

More news stories

Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

(Phys.org) —An international team of researchers, led by Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technology, has announced that they have performed the first successful cloning of adult human skin cells into stem ...

Plants with dormant seeds give rise to more species

Seeds that sprout as soon as they're planted may be good news for a garden. But wild plants need to be more careful. In the wild, a plant whose seeds sprouted at the first warm spell or rainy day would risk disaster. More ...

Health care site flagged in Heartbleed review

People with accounts on the enrollment website for President Barack Obama's signature health care law are being told to change their passwords following an administration-wide review of the government's vulnerability to the ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.