Stiftung Tierärztliche Hochschule Hannover (TiHo)TiHo eLib

Encoding of arousal and physical characteristics in audible and ultrasonic vocalizations of Mongolian gerbil pups testing common rules for mammals

In mammals, common rules for the encoding of arousal and physical characteristics of the sender are suggested based on a similar vocal production apparatus. In this study, we want to investigate to what extent vocalizations of developing Mongolian gerbil pups fulfill these rules. We recorded vocalizations of 28 Mongolian gerbil pups in four developmental stages using a separation paradigm, suggested to induce different arousal levels. For low arousal, a pup was placed in an arena isolated from its siblings and parents; for high arousal, the pup was additionally stressed through the simulation of a predator. An unsupervised cluster analysis revealed three call types: ultrasonic (USV), audible vocalizations (ADV), and transitions between both (USV-ADV). The USV and USV-ADV rate showed an age-dependent decrease, contrasting an age-dependent increase for ADVs. Vocal correlates for the encoding of arousal were found for USVs and of physical characteristics for USVs and ADVs. However, the pattern of encoding these cues differed between call types and only partly confirmed the common rules suggested for mammals. Our results show that divergent encoding patterns do not only differ between species but also between call types within a species, indicating that coding rules can be shaped by socio-ecological factors or call type specific production mechanisms.

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