Sequential information in a great ape utterance

Pawel Fedurek*, Klaus Zuberbühler, Christoph D. Dahl

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Citations (Scopus)
1 Downloads (Pure)


Birdsong is a prime example of acoustically sophisticated vocal behaviour, but its complexity has evolved mainly through sexual selection to attract mates and repel sexual rivals. In contrast, non-human primate calls often mediate complex social interactions, but are generally regarded as acoustically simple. Here, we examine arguably the most complex call in great ape vocal communication, the chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) ‘pant hoot’. This signal consists of four acoustically distinct phases: introduction, build-up, climax and let-down. We applied state-of-the-art Support Vector Machines (SVM) methodology to pant hoots produced by wild male chimpanzees of Budongo Forest, Uganda. We found that caller identity was apparent in all four phases, but most strongly in the low-amplitude introduction and high-amplitude climax phases. Age was mainly correlated with the low-amplitude introduction and build-up phases, dominance rank (i.e. social status) with the high-amplitude climax phase, and context (reflecting activity of the caller) with the low-amplitude let-down phase. We conclude that the complex acoustic structure of chimpanzee pant hoots is linked to a range of socially relevant information in the different phases of the call, reflecting the complex nature of chimpanzee social lives.

Original languageEnglish
Article number38226
Number of pages11
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 2 Dec 2016

Cite this