Juvenile vervet monkeys rely on others when responding to danger

T. Mohr*, E. van de Waal, K. Zuberbühler, S. Mercier

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Downloads (Pure)


Primate alarm calls are mainly hardwired but individuals need to adapt their calling behaviours according to the situation. Such learning necessitates recognising locally relevant dangers and may take place via their own experience or by observing others. To investigate monkeys alarm calling behaviour, we carried out a field experiment in which we exposed juvenile vervet monkeys to unfamiliar raptor models in the presence of audiences that differed in experience and reliability. We used audience age as a proxy for experience and relatedness as a proxy for reliability, while quantifying audience reactions to the models. We found a negative correlation between alarm call production and callers’ age. Adults never alarm called, compared to juveniles. We found no overall effect of audience composition and size, with juveniles calling more when with siblings than mothers or unrelated individuals. Finally, concerning audience reactions to the models, we observed juveniles remained silent with vigilant mothers and only alarm called with ignoring mothers, whereas we observed the opposite for siblings: juveniles remained silent with ignoring siblings and called with vigilant siblings. Despite the small sample size, juvenile vervet monkeys, confronted with unfamiliar and potentially dangerous raptors, seem to rely on others to decide whether to alarm call, demonstrating that the choice of the model may play an important key role in the ontogeny of primate alarm call behaviour.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1443-1447
Number of pages5
JournalAnimal Cognition
Early online date7 Apr 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2023


  • Alarm call
  • Audience effect
  • Chlorocebus pygerythrus


Dive into the research topics of 'Juvenile vervet monkeys rely on others when responding to danger'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this