Behaviour 2019
Effect of Isolation on Semantic Alarm Call Recognition in an Isolated Captive Vervet Monkey
Ella G Guedouar, Charles W Gunnels IV. Florida Gulf Coast University, Fort Myers, FL, United States

Vervet monkeys (Chlorocebus pygerythrus) use semantic communication, i.e., information that is interpreted contextually, in predator-specific alarm calls in the wild. For example, troops take cover and look up for an “eagle” call but stand on their hind legs and look down for a “snake” call. While captive vervets in social environments produce and respond to semantic calls, it is unclear whether a socially isolated captive vervet can recognize the information communicated in semantic calls. This study observed the response of an isolated captive adult male C. pygerythrus, “Ross,” to recorded anti-predator alarm calls. In each trial, Ross behavior was recorded in response to one of five signals (i.e., one of three alarm calls, a social vervet call, or a non-vervet alarm call). During the vervet alarm call trials, Ross moved away from the signal, showed increased activity, and elevated vigilance. In contrast, Ross oriented towards the social calls and ignored the non-vervet alarm call. This isolated captive vervet appeared to recognize alarm calls but not the context. In addition, Ross appeared to distinguish between vervet and non-vervet calls, despite having no prior experience.