Collective close calling mediates group cohesion in foraging meerkats via spatially determined differences in call rates.

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Date: Mar. 2022
From: Animal Behaviour(Vol. 185)
Publisher: Elsevier B.V.
Document Type: Report
Length: 409 words

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Abstract :

Keywords close call; contact call; group cohesion; group movement; Suricata suricatta; vocal hotspot Highlights * Meerkats collectively and continuously produce close calls during foraging. * Close call rates increase with a meerkat's proximity to group members. * Overall, close calls attract group members and elicit a call feedback. * Local differences in individual call rates may extrapolate to the group level. * At the group level vocal hotspots facilitate cohesive group movement. During group movements, many socially living and group-foraging animals produce contact calls. Contact calls typically function to coordinate and maintain cohesion among group members by providing receivers with information on the callers' location or movement-related motivation. Previous work suggests that meerkats, Suricata suricatta, also produce short-range contact calls, so-called 'close calls', while foraging to maintain group cohesion. Yet, the underlying mechanism of how meerkats coordinate cohesion via close calling is unclear. Using a combination of field observations and playback experiments we here show that foraging meerkats adjusted the call rates of their continuously produced close calls depending on their spatial position to group members. Specifically, meerkats called at higher rates when foraging at a closer distance to and when surrounded by conspecifics; however, the number of calling individuals or their call rates did not affect a subject's close call rate. Overall, close call playbacks elicited a call response in receivers and attracted them to the sound source. Our results suggest that differences in individual close call rates are determined by a meerkat's proximity to other group members, being assessed through their vocal interactions. We discuss how local differences in individual call rates may extrapolate to the group level, where emerging 'vocal hotspots' indicate areas of high individual density, in turn attracting and potentially guiding group members' movements. Hence, the described pattern illustrates a so far undocumented call mechanism where local differences in the call rates of continuously produced close calls can generate a group level pattern that mediates the cohesion of progressively moving animal groups. Author Affiliation: (a) Department of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland (b) Kalahari Research Centre, Kuruman River Reserve, Van Zylsrus, Northern Cape, South Africa (c) Mammal Research Institute, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa * Corresponding author. Article History: Received 29 April 2021; Revised 1 July 2021; Accepted 11 November 2021 (miscellaneous) MS. number: 21-00272R (footnote)1 Present address: Department of Behavioural and Cognitive Biology, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria. Byline: Sabrina Engesser [sabrina.engesser@outlook.com] (a,*,1), Marta B. Manser (a,b,c)

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A695208883