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PLoS One. 2015 Feb 25;10(2):e0116789. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0116789. eCollection 2015.

Ultrasonic vocalizations in golden hamsters (Mesocricetus auratus) reveal modest sex differences and nonlinear signals of sexual motivation.

Author information

1
Department of Psychology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, United States of America.

Abstract

Vocal signaling is one of many behaviors that animals perform during social interactions. Vocalizations produced by both sexes before mating can communicate sex, identity and condition of the caller. Adult golden hamsters produce ultrasonic vocalizations (USV) after intersexual contact. To determine whether these vocalizations are sexually dimorphic, we analyzed the vocal repertoire for sex differences in: 1) calling rates, 2) composition (structural complexity, call types and nonlinear phenomena) and 3) acoustic structure. In addition, we examined it for individual variation in the calls. The vocal repertoire was mainly composed of 1-note simple calls and at least half of them presented some degree of deterministic chaos. The prevalence of this nonlinear phenomenon was confirmed by low values of harmonic-to-noise ratio for most calls. We found modest sexual differences between repertoires. Males were more likely than females to produce tonal and less chaotic calls, as well as call types with frequency jumps. Multivariate analysis of the acoustic features of 1-note simple calls revealed significant sex differences in the second axis represented mostly by entropy and bandwidth parameters. Male calls showed lower entropy and inter-quartile bandwidth than female calls. Because the variation of acoustic structure within individuals was higher than among individuals, USV could not be reliably assigned to the correct individual. Interestingly, however, this high variability, augmented by the prevalence of chaos and frequency jumps, could be the result of increased vocal effort. Hamsters motivated to produce high calling rates also produced longer calls of broader bandwidth. Thus, the sex differences found could be the result of different sex preferences but also of a sex difference in calling motivation or condition. We suggest that variable and complex USV may have been selected to increase responsiveness of a potential mate by communicating sexual arousal and preventing habituation to the caller.

PMID:
25714096
PMCID:
PMC4340904
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pone.0116789
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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