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Behav Brain Res. 2009 Nov 5;203(2):223-31. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2009.05.007. Epub 2009 May 13.

Acoustic features to arousal and identity in disturbance calls of tree shrews (Tupaia belangeri).

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  • 1Institute of Zoology, University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Germany.


Across mammalian species, comparable morphological and physiological constraints in the production of airborne vocalisations are suggested to lead to commonalities in the vocal conveyance of acoustic features to specific attributes of callers, such as arousal and individual identity. To explore this hypothesis we examined intra- and interindividual acoustic variation in chatter calls of tree shrews (Tupaia belangeri). The calls were induced experimentally by a disturbance paradigm and related to two defined arousal states of a subject. The arousal state of an animal was primarily operationalised by the habituation of the subject to a new environment and additionally determined by behavioural indicators of stress in tree shrews (tail-position and piloerection). We investigated whether the arousal state and indexical features of the caller, namely individual identity and sex, are conveyed acoustically. Frame-by-frame videographic and multiparametric sound analyses revealed that arousal and identity, but not sex of a caller reliably predicted spectral-temporal variation in sound structure. Furthermore, there was no effect of age or body weight on individual-specific acoustic features. Similar results in another call type of tree shrews and comparable findings in other mammalian lineages provide evidence that comparable physiological and morphological constraints in the production of airborne vocalisations across mammals lead to commonalities in acoustic features conveying arousal and identity, respectively.

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