Skip to content

Research at St Andrews

Campbell's monkeys concatenate vocalizations into context-specific call sequences

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

DOI

Abstract

Primate vocal behavior is often considered irrelevant in modeling human language evolution, mainly because of the caller's limited vocal control and apparent lack of intentional signaling. Here, we present the results of a long-term study on Campbell's monkeys, which has revealed an unrivaled degree of vocal complexity. Adult males produced six different loud call types, which they combined into various sequences in highly context-specific ways. We found stereotyped sequences that were strongly associated with cohesion and travel, falling trees, neighboring groups, nonpredatory animals, unspecific predatory threat, and specific predator classes. Within the responses to predators, we found that crowned eagles triggered four and leopards three different sequences, depending on how the caller learned about their presence. Callers followed a number of principles when concatenating sequences, such as nonrandom transition probabilities of call types, addition of specific calls into an existing sequence to form a different one, or recombination of two sequences to form a third one. We conclude that these primates have overcome some of the constraints of limited vocal control by combinatorial organization. As the different sequences were so tightly linked to specific external events, the Campbell's monkey call system may be the most complex example of 'proto-syntax' in animal communication known to date.

Close

Details

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)22026-22031
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume106
Issue number51
DOIs
StatePublished - 22 Dec 2009

    Research areas

  • alarm call, nonhuman primate, referential communication, semantic, syntax, CERCOPITHECUS-CAMPBELLI, NONHUMAN PRIMATE, ALARM CALLS, CAPTIVE GROUP, POECILE-CAROLINENSIS, AUDITORY LATERALITY, WILD CHIMPANZEES, SOCIAL-CONTEXT, GIBBON SONGS, LANGUAGE

Discover related content
Find related publications, people, projects and more using interactive charts.

View graph of relations

Related by author

  1. Alarm calling and kinship

    Stephan, C. & Zuberbuhler, K. 30 Oct 2016 Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science. Shackelford, T. K. & Weekes-Shackelford, V. (eds.). Springer

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingEntry for encyclopedia/dictionary

  2. Vocal grooming

    Zuberbuehler, K. & Fedurek, P. 3 Nov 2016 Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science. Shackelford, T. K. & Weekes-Shackelford, V. (eds.). Springer

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingEntry for encyclopedia/dictionary

  3. Development of object manipulation in wild chimpanzees

    Lamon, N., Neumann, C. & Zuberbuhler, K. Jan 2018 In : Animal Behaviour. 135, p. 121-130

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  4. Contextual encoding in titi monkey alarm call sequences

    Berthet, M., Neumann, C., Mesbahi, G., Cäsar Damas, C. & Zuberbuhler, K. Jan 2018 In : Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology. 72, 11 p., 8

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  5. Skin temperature and reproductive condition in wild female chimpanzees

    Dezecache, G., Wilke, C., Richi, N., Neumann, C. & Zuberbuhler, K. 5 Dec 2017 In : PeerJ. 5, e4116

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Related by journal

  1. Ancient polymorphisms and divergent hitchhiking contribute to genomic islands of divergence within a poplar species complex

    Ma, T., Wang, K., Hu, Q., Xi, Z., Wan, D., Wang, Q., Feng, J., Jiang, D., Ahani, H., Abbott, R. J., Lascoux, M., Nevo, E. & Liu, J. 9 Jan 2018 In : Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 115, 2, p. E236-E243 8 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  2. Synchronous volcanic eruptions and abrupt climate change ~17.7k years ago plausibly linked by stratospheric ozone depletion

    McConnell, J. R. , Burke, A. , Dunbar, N. W. , Köhler, P. , Thomas, J. L. , Arienzo, M. M. , Chellman, N. J. , Maselli, O. J. , Sigl, M. , Adkins, J. F. , Baggenstos, D. , Burkhart, J. F. , Brook, E. J. , Buizert, C. , Cole-Dai, J. , Fudge, T. J. , Knorr, G. , Graf, H-F. , Grieman, M. M. , Iverson, N. & 9 others McGwire, K. C., Mulvaney, R., Paris, G., Rhodes, R. H., Saltzman, E. S., Severinghaus, J. P., Steffensen, J. P., Taylor, K. C. & Winckler, G. 5 Sep 2017 In : Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. Early Edition, 6 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  3. Coevolution of cultural intelligence, extended life history, sociality, and brain size in primates

    Street, S. E., Navarrete, A. F., Reader, S. M. & Laland, K. N. 25 Jul 2017 In : Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 114, 30, p. 7908-7914

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Related by journal

  1. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (Journal)

    Nevels, M. M. (Guest editor)
    Jul 2016 → …

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial workEditor of research journal

  2. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (Journal)

    Smith, T. K. (Member of editorial board)
    2012 → …

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial workPeer review of manuscripts

  3. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (Journal)

    Smith, T. K. (Member of editorial board)
    2008 → …

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial workPeer review of manuscripts

  4. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (Journal)

    Miles, G. B. (Reviewer)
    2006 → …

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial workPeer review of manuscripts

ID: 17090888