The alarm call system of wild black-fronted titi monkeys, Callicebus nigrifrons

Cristiane Damas, Richard Byrne, Robert J. Young, Klaus Zuberbuehler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Citations (Scopus)


Upon encountering predators, many animals produce specific vocalisations that alert others and sometimes dissuade the predators from hunting. Callicebus monkeys are known for their large vocal repertoire, but little is known about the function and meaning of most call types. We recorded a large number of natural predator responses from five different groups of black-fronted titi monkeys in their Atlantic forest habitat in South Eastern Brazil. When detecting predatory threats, adult group members responded with call sequences that initially consisted of two brief, high-pitched calls with distinct frequency contours. Call A was mainly given to raptors but also to predatory capuchin monkeys and other threats within the canopy, while call B was given to predatory or non-predatory disturbances on the ground. In later parts of the sequences, we also recorded a high-pitched unmodulated call C and various low-pitched loud calls. Results therefore suggest that calls A and B provide listeners with rapid and reliable information about the general classes of danger experienced by the caller, while obtaining more specific information through other call types and combinations and behavioural responses. We discuss these findings in relation to current evolutionary theory of primate communication.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)653-667
Number of pages15
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2012


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