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J Exp Biol. 2017 Oct 1;220(Pt 19):3571-3578. doi: 10.1242/jeb.154765. Epub 2017 Aug 4.

Acoustic characteristics used by Japanese macaques for individual discrimination.

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Graduate School of Life and Medical Sciences, Doshisha University, Kyoto, Japan
Graduate School of Life and Medical Sciences, Doshisha University, Kyoto, Japan.


The vocalizations of primates contain information about speaker individuality. Many primates, including humans, are able to distinguish conspecifics based solely on vocalizations. The purpose of this study was to investigate the acoustic characteristics used by Japanese macaques in individual vocal discrimination. Furthermore, we tested human subjects using monkey vocalizations to evaluate species specificity with respect to such discriminations. Two monkeys and five humans were trained to discriminate the coo calls of two unfamiliar monkeys. We created a stimulus continuum between the vocalizations of the two monkeys as a set of probe stimuli (whole morph). We also created two sets of continua in which only one acoustic parameter, fundamental frequency (f0) or vocal tract characteristic (VTC), was changed from the coo call of one monkey to that of another while the other acoustic feature remained the same (f0 morph and VTC morph, respectively). According to the results, the reaction times both of monkeys and humans were correlated with the morph proportion under the whole morph and f0 morph conditions. The reaction time to the VTC morph was correlated with the morph proportion in both monkeys, whereas the reaction time in humans, on average, was not correlated with morph proportion. Japanese monkeys relied more consistently on VTC than did humans for discriminating monkey vocalizations. Our results support the idea that the auditory system of primates is specialized for processing conspecific vocalizations and suggest that VTC is a significant acoustic feature used by Japanese macaques to discriminate conspecific vocalizations.


Fundamental frequency; Go/no-go operant conditioning; STRAIGHT; Vocal tract characteristics

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