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Am J Primatol. 1999;47(2):133-51.

Geographic variation in the calls of wild chimpanzees: a reassessment.

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Department of Anthropology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor 48109, USA.


Male chimpanzees produce a species-typical call, the pant hoot, to communicate to conspecifics over long-distances. Calls given by males from the well-known Gombe and Mahale populations typically consist of four different phases: an introduction, build-up, climax, and let-down. Recent observations suggest that chimpanzees living in the Kibale National Park, Uganda, consistently give calls that lack a build-up and are thus qualitatively distinguishable acoustically from those made by other East African conspecifics. We analyzed additional recordings from Mahale and Kibale to re-examine geographic variation in chimpanzee calls. Results indicate that males from both sites produce pant hoots containing all four parts of the call. Calls made by chimpanzees from the two populations, however, differ in quantitative acoustic measures. Specifically, males at Kibale initiate their calls with significantly longer elements and build-up over briefer periods at slower rates than individuals from Mahale. Kibale males also deliver acoustically less variable calls than chimpanzees at Mahale. Although climax elements do not differ between populations in any single acoustic feature, discriminant function analysis reveals that acoustic variables can be used in combination to assign calls to the correct population at rates higher than that expected by chance. Ecological factors related to differences in habitat acoustics, the sound environment of the local biota, and body size are likely to account for these observed macrogeographic variations in chimpanzee calls.

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