Propagation of the loud “tchó” call of golden-backed uakaris, Cacajao melanocephalus, in the black-swamp forests of the upper Amazon

Abstract

Arboreal primates use loud vocalisations to transmit information in densely vegetated habitats. These vocalisations are likely to show adaptations to increase their propagation and to transmit information. Golden-backed uakaris, Cacajao melanocephalus, emit a loud vocalization termed the “tchó” call, which seems to function as a contact call and encodes information on the individual signaler and behavioural context. Because the call is often used for communication over relatively large distances, we were interested in its propagation in the wild. The aim of the present study was to investigate the degradation patterns of the tchó call in the flooded igapó forest. We examined via playback experiments how the acoustic parameters of this call changed with increasing distance from the playback speaker. We broadcast 12 tchó calls and rerecorded them along a transect at distances of 10, 20, 40, 80 and 160 m from the speaker in two igapó forest patches in Jaú National Park, Amazonas, Brazil. At 160 m from the speaker, the tchó call degraded in both patches and was barely recordable. Up to a distance of 80 m, the bandwidth and number of harmonics in the call decreased with increasing distance, while the lowest frequency increased. The highest frequency (HF) did not gradually decrease with increasing distance. However, when we compared the HF at distances of 10 and 80 m, we could see a clear decrease in this parameter. Call duration increased compared with the broadcast signal up to 40 m because of reverberation, but decreased at 80 m as the weaker echoes of the call attenuated. These changes may reveal information about the signaler’s distance during signal transmission. The frequency of maximum energy (FME) of the tchó call decreased significantly when comparing recordings made at 10 and 80 m. Nevertheless, it did not show a consistent and gradual decrease with increasing rerecording distance (at least up to 80 m). FME remained relatively stable (±50 Hz on average, at least up to 80 m) when compared to the other call parameters, suggesting that the tchó call may be adapted to transmit information with some efficiency throughout the igapó forest.

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Acknowledgments

In the field, we are grateful to Maria de Jesus Santos Melo, Eduardo Elízio de Souza, Jacó Saldanha de Souza, Ilo José Severino di Almeida, Roberto da Silva and Liu Ying (field assistants), to all of the staff of Jaú National Park-IBAMA, and to all Fundação Vitória Amazônica staff. Also, we are grateful to Adrian Barnett for all of his help and the initial contacts with the local field guides at Jaú National Park. We would like to thank Dr. Peter Waser and Dr. John Mitani for revising the manuscript. We would like to thank Terrence Keasey and Susan Keasey for their comments on early versions of the manuscript. BMB received support from Programme Alban (the European Union Programme of High Level Scholarships for Latin America, grant number E06D103405BR); an ORS award (Overseas Research Students Award Scheme); Faculty of Sciences, School of Biological Sciences, University of Bristol; a Rufford Small Conservation Grant; an IDEA WILD grant, Amazon Ecopark Lodge and Living Rain Forest Foundation. The present study was noninvasive and complies with Brazilian law (Ibama licenses numbers: 01/1007 Parna Jaú and 13618-1).

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Correspondence to Bruna M. Bezerra.

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Bezerra, B.M., Souto, A.S. & Jones, G. Propagation of the loud “tchó” call of golden-backed uakaris, Cacajao melanocephalus, in the black-swamp forests of the upper Amazon. Primates 53, 317–325 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10329-012-0312-8

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Keywords

  • Sound propagation
  • Igapó forest
  • Golden-backed uakaris
  • Call structure
  • Playback