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J Acoust Soc Am. 2007 Jun;121(6):3947-53.

Do acoustic features of lion, Panthera leo, roars reflect sex and male condition?

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  • 1Research Group Cognitive Ethology, German Primate Center, Kellnerweg 4, 37077 Göttingen, Germany.


Long distance calls function to regulate intergroup spacing, attract mating partners, and/or repel competitors. Therefore, they may not only provide information about the sex (if both sexes are calling) but also about the condition of the caller. This paper provides a description of the acoustic features of roars recorded from 18 male and 6 female lions (Panthera leo) living in the Serengeti National park, Tanzania. After analyzing whether these roars differ between the sexes, tests whether male roars may function as indicators of their fighting ability or condition were conducted. Therefore, call characteristics were tested for relation to anatomical features as size, mane color, or mane length. Call characteristics included acoustic parameters that previously had been implied as indicators of size and fighting ability, e.g., call length, fundamental frequency, and peak frequency. The analysis revealed differences in relation to sex, which were entirely explained by variation in body size. No evidence that acoustic variables were related to male condition was found, indicating that sexual selection might only be a weak force modulating the lion's roar. Instead, lion roars may have mainly been selected to effectively advertise territorial boundaries.

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