Stiftung Tierärztliche Hochschule Hannover (TiHo)

Individual distinctiveness across call types of the southern white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum simum)

Abstract

Individual distinctiveness in the acoustic structure of vocalizations provides a basis for individual recognition in mammals and plays an important role in social behavior. Within a species, call types can differ in individual distinctiveness, which can be explained by three factors, namely differences in the social function, the distance of the caller to the receiver, and the acoustic structure of the call. We explored the variation in individual distinctiveness across three call types (Grunt, Hiss, Snort) of the southern white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum simum) and investigated to what extent the abovementioned factors account for individual distinctiveness. Calls were recorded from 25 adult southern white rhinoceroses in six different zoos. We used three methods to compare the level of individual distinctiveness across call types, namely discriminant function analysis (DFA), potential for individual identity coding (PIC), and the information criterion (Hs). The three call types possessed an acoustic structure capable of showing individual variation to different extents. Individual distinctiveness was lowest for Snorts, intermediate for Hisses, and highest for Grunts. The level of individual distinctiveness of all three call types was lower than that previously reported for Pant calls of this species. Calls functioning to mediate intragroup social interactions had the highest individual distinctiveness. This highlights that a given communicative function and the need for individual discrimination during a social interaction have a major influence on the degree of individual distinctiveness.

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