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Naturwissenschaften. 2009 May;96(5):575-84. doi: 10.1007/s00114-008-0506-5. Epub 2009 Feb 27.

The vocal repertoire in a solitary foraging carnivore, Cynictis penicillata, may reflect facultative sociality.

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  • 1Department of Botany and Zoology, University of Stellenbosch, Private Bag X1, Matieland 7602, South Africa.


We describe the vocal repertoire of a facultatively social carnivore, the yellow mongoose, Cynictis penicillata. Using a combination of close-range observations, recordings and experiments with simulated predators, we were able to obtain clear descriptions of call structure and function for a wide range of calls used by this herpestid. The vocal repertoire of the yellow mongooses comprised ten call types, half of which were used in appeasing or fearful contexts and half in aggressive interactions. Data from this study suggest that the yellow mongoose uses an urgency-based alarm calling system, indicating high and low urgency through two distinct call types. Compared to solitary mongooses, the yellow mongoose has a large proportion of 'friendly' vocalisations that enhance group cohesion, but its vocal repertoire is smaller and less context-specific than those of obligate social species. This study of the vocal repertoire of the yellow mongoose is, to our knowledge, the most complete to have been conducted on a facultatively social species in its natural habitat.

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