Alarm call modification by prairie dogs in the presence of juveniles

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  • Grete Wilson-Henjum
    Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, USA
  • Jacob Job
    Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, USA
  • Megan F. McKenna
    National Park Service Natural Sounds and Night Skies Division
  • Graeme Shannon
  • George Wittemyer
    Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, USA
While several drivers of wildlife alarm calls have been identified, recent work on the impact of the audience on the plasticity of alarm calling indicates that intraspecific communication can drive this behavior. We build on this literature by assessing changes in call characteristics in black-tailed prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus) in the presence of recently emerged juveniles. Alarm calls were elicited by approaching individuals, and then recorded using a shotgun microphone. Presence and distance of pups were noted prior to recording. Alarm calls were analyzed for changes in spectral and temporal characteristics relative to those of adults that were not in the immediate presence of pups. Our analyses indicated that adult prairie dogs lowered the central concentration of energy in their alarm calls when calling in the presence of pups. This may show that prairie dogs are conscious of the type of alarm call produced based on the behavioral context of calling and potentially the audience receiving the message. Furthermore, this may support the hypothesis that alarm calling is intended to reach conspecifics, rather than to send a message to the predator itself.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)167-174
Number of pages8
JournalEthology
Volume37
Issue number2
Early online date9 Jan 2019
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2019
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