Document Detail

Bonobos extract meaning from call sequences.
MedLine Citation:
PMID:  21556149     Owner:  NLM     Status:  MEDLINE    
Studies on language-trained bonobos have revealed their remarkable abilities in representational and communication tasks. Surprisingly, however, corresponding research into their natural communication has largely been neglected. We address this issue with a first playback study on the natural vocal behaviour of bonobos. Bonobos produce five acoustically distinct call types when finding food, which they regularly mix together into longer call sequences. We found that individual call types were relatively poor indicators of food quality, while context specificity was much greater at the call sequence level. We therefore investigated whether receivers could extract meaning about the quality of food encountered by the caller by integrating across different call sequences. We first trained four captive individuals to find two types of foods, kiwi (preferred) and apples (less preferred) at two different locations. We then conducted naturalistic playback experiments during which we broadcasted sequences of four calls, originally produced by a familiar individual responding to either kiwi or apples. All sequences contained the same number of calls but varied in the composition of call types. Following playbacks, we found that subjects devoted significantly more search effort to the field indicated by the call sequence. Rather than attending to individual calls, bonobos attended to the entire sequences to make inferences about the food encountered by a caller. These results provide the first empirical evidence that bonobos are able to extract information about external events by attending to vocal sequences of other individuals and highlight the importance of call combinations in their natural communication system.
Zanna Clay; Klaus Zuberbühler
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Publication Detail:
Type:  Journal Article; Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't     Date:  2011-04-27
Journal Detail:
Title:  PloS one     Volume:  6     ISSN:  1932-6203     ISO Abbreviation:  PLoS ONE     Publication Date:  2011  
Date Detail:
Created Date:  2011-05-10     Completed Date:  2011-09-23     Revised Date:  2013-06-30    
Medline Journal Info:
Nlm Unique ID:  101285081     Medline TA:  PLoS One     Country:  United States    
Other Details:
Languages:  eng     Pagination:  e18786     Citation Subset:  IM    
School of Psychology, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, Scotland, United Kingdom.
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MeSH Terms
Animal Communication*
Feeding Behavior
Pan paniscus / physiology*

From MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine

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