In the domain of primate vocal communication, learning can influence the production, usage, or comprehension of vocalizations. It is generally assumed that the production of the basic acoustic structure of vocalizations is predominately genetically determined, but subtle acoustic variation in calls between groups can arise as a result of social learning. The ability to use vocalizations in an appropriate context appears to be partly innate and partly socially learned, and thus more flexible. Call comprehension appears to be more flexible and influenced by experience and learning than call production and usage. Thus, inter-population comparisons provide an important tool to investigate the vocal flexibility in primates.
Comparisons of Verreaux's sifakas responses to alarm calls between populations in Kirindy and Berenty which are characterized by different settings of predators revealed clear differences, suggesting that this differential comprehension and usage of alarm calls might be the result of social learning processes that caused changes in signal content in response to changes in the set of predators to which these populations have been exposed since they last shared a common ancestor (Fichtel & Kappeler 2011).
read more about Claudia at her DPZ homepage, Claudia Fichtel, MSc., PhD.
Claudia's PhD students Anna Schnöll and Iris Dröscher also do research at Berenty. See below...