Living Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science

pp 1-8

Date: Latest Version

Alarm Calling and Kinship

  • Claudia StephanAffiliated withUniversity of Neuchâtel Email author 
  • , Klaus ZuberbühlerAffiliated withUniversity of NeuchâtelSt Andrews University


Alert call; Altruistic behavior; Kin selection; Warning call


Vocal behavior of prey animals to defend themselves and others from predation.


Alarm calling is a widespread phenomenon in the animal kingdom, usually produced by individuals during predation attempts, a context with large fitness consequences, suggesting that the behavior has been under strong selection pressure. But there is something paradoxical about animal alarm calls. Why should an individual, faced with a potentially lethal predator, behave in conspicuous ways to warn others, rather than trying to escape or hide from the danger? This seemingly altruistic behavior has posed a major challenge for evolutionary theory and become the topic of countless studies. Two major research themes have been addressed with studies on animal alarm calls: the cognitive processes involved in call production and perception and the evolutionary forces that have shaped the behavior. The following sections review s ...

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