Suffixation influences receivers' behaviour in non-human primates

Camille Coye, Karim Ouattara, Klaus Zuberbühler, Alban Lemasson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


Compared to humans, non-human primates have very little control over their vocal production. Nonetheless, some primates produce various call combinations, which may partially offset their lack of acoustic flexibility. A relevant example is male Campbell's monkeys (Cercopithecus campbelli), which give one call type (‘Krak’) to leopards, while the suffixed version of the same call stem (‘Krak-oo’) is given to unspecific danger. To test whether recipients attend to this suffixation pattern, we carried out a playback experiment in which we broadcast naturally and artificially modified suffixed and unsuffixed ‘Krak’ calls of male Campbell's monkeys to 42 wild groups of Diana monkeys (Cercopithecus diana diana). The two species form mixed-species groups and respond to each other's vocalizations. We analysed the vocal response of male and female Diana monkeys and overall found significantly stronger vocal responses to unsuffixed (leopard) than suffixed (unspecific danger) calls. Although the acoustic structure of the ‘Krak’ stem of the calls has some additional effects, subject responses were mainly determined by the presence or the absence of the suffix. This study indicates that suffixation is an evolved function in primate communication in contexts where adaptive responses are particularly important.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20150265
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1807
Publication statusPublished - 22 May 2015


  • Syntax
  • Guenon
  • Alarm calls
  • Field experiment


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