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Proc Biol Sci. 2005 May 7;272(1566):941-7.

Red deer stags use formants as assessment cues during intrasexual agonistic interactions.

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  • 1School of Life Sciences, University of Sussex, Brighton BN1 9QG, UK.


While vocal tract resonances or formants are key acoustic parameters that define differences between phonemes in human speech, little is known about their function in animal communication. Here, we used playback experiments to present red deer stags with re-synthesized vocalizations in which formant frequencies were systematically altered to simulate callers of different body sizes. In response to stimuli where lower formants indicated callers with longer vocal tracts, stags were more attentive, replied with more roars and extended their vocal tracts further in these replies. Our results indicate that mammals other than humans use formants in vital vocal exchanges and can adjust their own formant frequencies in relation to those that they hear.

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