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Dominance style is a key predictor of vocal use and evolution across nonhuman primates

Kavanagh, Eithne and Street, Sally E. and Angwela, Felix O. and Bergman, Thore J. and Blaszczyk, Maryjka B. and Bolt, Laura M. and Briseño-Jaramillo, Margarita and Brown, Michelle and Chen-Kraus, Chloe and Clay, Zanna and Coye, Camille and Thompson, Melissa Emery and Estrada, Alejandro and Fichtel, Claudia and Fruth, Barbara and Gamba, Marco and Giacoma, Cristina and Graham, Kirsty E. and Green, Samantha and Grueter, Cyril C. and Gupta, Shreejata and Gustison, Morgan L. and Hagberg, Lindsey and Hedwig, Daniela and Jack, Katharine M. and Kappeler, Peter M. and King-Bailey, Gillian and Kuběnová, Barbora and Lemasson, Alban and Inglis, David MacGregor and Machanda, Zarin and MacIntosh, Andrew and Majolo, Bonaventura and Marshall, Sophie and Mercier, Stephanie and Micheletta, Jérôme and Muller, Martin and Notman, Hugh and Ouattara, Karim and Ostner, Julia and Pavelka, Mary S. M. and Peckre, Louise R. and Petersdorf, Megan and Quintero, Fredy and Ramos-Fernández, Gabriel and Robbins, Martha M. and Salmi, Roberta and Schamberg, Isaac and Schoof, Valérie A. M. and Schülke, Oliver and Semple, Stuart and Silk, Joan B. and Sosa-Lopéz, J. Roberto and Torti, Valeria and Valente, Daria and Ventura, Raffaella and van de Waal, Erica and Weyher, Anna H. and Wilke, Claudia and Wrangham, Richard and Young, Christopher and Zanoli, Anna and Zuberbühler, Klaus and Lameira, Adriano R. and Slocombe, Katie (2021) 'Dominance style is a key predictor of vocal use and evolution across nonhuman primates.', Royal Society open science., 8 (7). p. 210873.


Animal communication has long been thought to be subject to pressures and constraints associated with social relationships. However, our understanding of how the nature and quality of social relationships relates to the use and evolution of communication is limited by a lack of directly comparable methods across multiple levels of analysis. Here, we analysed observational data from 111 wild groups belonging to 26 non-human primate species, to test how vocal communication relates to dominance style (the strictness with which a dominance hierarchy is enforced, ranging from ‘despotic’ to ‘tolerant’). At the individual-level, we found that dominant individuals who were more tolerant vocalized at a higher rate than their despotic counterparts. This indicates that tolerance within a relationship may place pressure on the dominant partner to communicate more during social interactions. At the species-level, however, despotic species exhibited a larger repertoire of hierarchy-related vocalizations than their tolerant counterparts. Findings suggest primate signals are used and evolve in tandem with the nature of interactions that characterize individuals' social relationships.

Item Type:Article
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Publisher statement:© 2021 The Authors. Published by the Royal Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, provided the original author and source are credited.
Date accepted:08 July 2021
Date deposited:03 November 2021
Date of first online publication:28 July 2021
Date first made open access:03 November 2021

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