Contextual encoding in titi monkey alarm call sequences

Mélissa Berthet, Christof Neumann, Geoffrey Mesbahi, Cristiane Cäsar Damas, Klaus Zuberbuhler

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9 Citations (Scopus)
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Many primates produce one type of alarm call to a broad range of events, usually terrestrial predators and non-predatory situations, which raises questions about whether primate alarm calls should be considered “functionally referential”. A recent example is black-fronted titi monkeys, Callicebus nigrifrons, which emit sequences of B-calls to terrestrial predators or when moving towards or near the ground. In this study, we reassess the context-specificity of these utterances, focussing both on their acoustic and sequential structure. We found that B-calls could be differentiated into context-specific acoustic variants (terrestrial predators vs. ground-related movements) and that call sequences to predators had a more regular sequential structure than ground-related sequences. Overall, these findings suggest that the acoustic and temporal structure of titi monkey call sequences discriminate between predator and non-predatory events, fulfilling the production criterion of functional reference.
Original languageEnglish
Article number8
Number of pages11
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Early online date21 Dec 2017
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2018


  • Callicebus nigrifrons
  • Titi monkey
  • Alarm call
  • Sequence
  • Acoustic variant
  • Context specificity

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