Chimpanzee pant-hoots encode individual information more reliably than group differences

Nisarg P. Desai, Pawel Fedurek, Katie E. Slocombe, Michael L. Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Vocal learning, the ability to modify the acoustic structure of vocalizations based on social experience, is a fundamental feature of speech in humans (Homo sapiens). While vocal learning is common in taxa such as songbirds and whales, the vocal learning capacities of nonhuman primates appear more limited. Intriguingly, evidence for vocal learning has been reported in chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes), for example, in the form of regional variation (“dialects”) in the “pant-hoot” calls. This suggests that some capacity for vocal learning may be an ancient feature of the Pan-Homo clade. Nonetheless, reported differences have been subtle, with intercommunity variation representing only a small portion of the total acoustic variation. To gain further insights into the extent of regional variation in chimpanzee vocalizations, we performed an analysis of pant-hoots from chimpanzees in the neighboring Kasekela and Mitumba communities at Gombe National Park, Tanzania, and the geographically distant Kanyawara community at Kibale National Park, Uganda. We did not find any statistically significant differences between the neighboring communities at Gombe or among geographically distant communities. Furthermore, we found differences among individuals in all communities. Hence, the variation in chimpanzee pant-hoots reflected individual differences, rather than group differences. Thus, we did not find evidence of dialects in this population, suggesting that extensive vocal learning emerged only after the lineages of Homo and Pan diverged.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere23430
JournalAmerican journal of primatology
Volume84
Issue number11
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank the reviewers and Catherine Crockford for thoughtful feedback that helped us improve the manuscript. We thank our field assistants H. I. S. and N. Z. M. for their heroic data collection efforts. We thank the Gombe Stream Research Center field staff for carrying out the work needed to make research and conservation in and around Gombe possible, and the Jane Goodall Institute for supporting these projects. We thank Anthony Collins, Deus Mjungu, and Dismas Mwacha for additional support during the fieldwork. We thank the University of Minnesota for funding this study through the Talle Faculty Research Award to M. L. W. We thank Frans Plooij and Twise Victory BV for providing further funding to the Chimpanzee Vocal Communication Project at Gombe. We thank the Government of Tanzania, Tanzania National Parks, Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology, and Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute for permission to carry out the research. We thank Catherine Crockford and Tatiana Bortolato for sharing information on their methods of distinguishing call elements. We thank Kurt Hammerschmidt, Roger Mundry, and Julia Fischer for providing advice and software packages to perform the acoustic and statistical analysis. We thank the directors of the Kibale Chimpanzee Project (KCP), Richard Wrangham and Martin Muller, for allowing us to conduct this study on the Kanyawara chimpanzees. We thank the KCP field manager, Emily Otali, and KCP field assistants, Francis Mugurusi, Solomon Musana, James Kyomuhendo, Wilberforce Tweheyo, Sunday John, and Christopher Irumba, who were extremely helpful during the fieldwork. P. F. was funded by a BBSRC studentship, a Leakey Foundation General Grant, and an American Society of Primatologists General Small Grant. K. S. was funded by a BBSRC project grant.

Funding Information:
We thank the reviewers and Catherine Crockford for thoughtful feedback that helped us improve the manuscript. We thank our field assistants H. I. S. and N. Z. M. for their heroic data collection efforts. We thank the Gombe Stream Research Center field staff for carrying out the work needed to make research and conservation in and around Gombe possible, and the Jane Goodall Institute for supporting these projects. We thank Anthony Collins, Deus Mjungu, and Dismas Mwacha for additional support during the fieldwork. We thank the University of Minnesota for funding this study through the Talle Faculty Research Award to M. L. W. We thank Frans Plooij and Twise Victory BV for providing further funding to the Chimpanzee Vocal Communication Project at Gombe. We thank the Government of Tanzania, Tanzania National Parks, Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology, and Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute for permission to carry out the research. We thank Catherine Crockford and Tatiana Bortolato for sharing information on their methods of distinguishing call elements. We thank Kurt Hammerschmidt, Roger Mundry, and Julia Fischer for providing advice and software packages to perform the acoustic and statistical analysis. We thank the directors of the Kibale Chimpanzee Project (KCP), Richard Wrangham and Martin Muller, for allowing us to conduct this study on the Kanyawara chimpanzees. We thank the KCP field manager, Emily Otali, and KCP field assistants, Francis Mugurusi, Solomon Musana, James Kyomuhendo, Wilberforce Tweheyo, Sunday John, and Christopher Irumba, who were extremely helpful during the fieldwork. P. F. was funded by a BBSRC studentship, a Leakey Foundation General Grant, and an American Society of Primatologists General Small Grant. K. S. was funded by a BBSRC project grant.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors. American Journal of Primatology published by Wiley Periodicals LLC.

Keywords

  • chimpanzee
  • dialects
  • pant-hoot
  • vocal learning

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

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