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Experimental Evidence for Heterospecific Alarm Signal Recognition via Associative Learning in Wild Capuchin Monkeys

Wheeler, Brandon C., Fahy, Martin, Tiddi, Barbara (2019) Experimental Evidence for Heterospecific Alarm Signal Recognition via Associative Learning in Wild Capuchin Monkeys. Animal Cognition, 22 . pp. 687-695. ISSN 1435-9448. (doi:10.1007/s10071-019-01264-3) (KAR id:73914)

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Many vertebrate taxa respond to heterospecific alarm calls with anti-predator behaviours. While it is unclear how apparent recognition is achieved, learned associations between the occurrence of the call and the presence of a predator are considered the most likely explanation. Conclusive evidence that this behaviour is indeed underpinned by learning, however, is scarce. This study tested whether wild black capuchin monkeys (Sapajus nigritus) learn to associate novel sounds with predators through a two-phase field experiment. During an initial training phase, three study groups were each presented with a playback of one of the three novel sounds together with a simulated felid predator on four occasions over an 8- to 12-week period. This was followed by a test phase, wherein each of the three sounds was played back to individuals in all three groups, allowing each sound to serve as both a test stimulus for individuals trained with that sound, and a control stimulus for individuals trained with another sound. Antipredator responses were significantly stronger in response to test sounds than to controls. Limited observations suggest that antipredator responses persisted for at least 2 years without reinforcement of the predator–sound link. Additionally, responses to noisier sounds were typically stronger than were those to more tonal sounds, although the effect of sound type cannot be disentangled from potential effects of group. This study provides the strongest evidence to date that learning affects the responses of primates to sounds such as heterospecific alarm calls, and supports the contention that signals provide receivers with information.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1007/s10071-019-01264-3
Uncontrolled keywords: Alarm calls, Anti-predator behaviour, Associative learning, Communication Information, New World primates
Subjects: Q Science > QL Zoology
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Anthropology and Conservation
Depositing User: Brandon Wheeler
Date Deposited: 15 May 2019 08:56 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2021 14:04 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
Wheeler, Brandon C.:
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