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Does the grey mouse lemur use agonistic vocalizations to recognise kin?

Kessler, Sharon E.; Radespiel, Ute; Hasiniaina, Alida I.F.; Nash, Leanne T.; Zimmermann, Elke

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Sharon E. Kessler

Ute Radespiel

Alida I.F. Hasiniaina

Leanne T. Nash

Elke Zimmermann


Frequent kin-biased coalitionary behaviour is a hallmark of mammalian social complexity. Furthermore, selection to understand complex social dynamics is believed to underlie the co-evolution of social complexity and large brains. Vocalisations have been shown to be an important mechanism with which large-brained mammals living in complex social groups recognise and recruit kin for coalitionary support during agonistic conflicts. We test whether kin recognition via agonistic calls occurs in a small-brained solitary foraging primate living in a dispersed social network, the grey mouse lemur (Microcebus murinus, Miller JF, 1777). As mouse lemurs are frequent models for ancestral solitary foraging mammals, this study examines whether kin recognition via agonistic calls could be the foundation from which more complex, kin-based coalitionary behaviour evolved. We test whether female wild mouse lemurs in Ankarafantsika National Park, Madagascar, react differently to agonistic calls from kin and nonkin and to calls from familiar and unfamiliar individuals during playback experiments. Subjects showed no significant differences in reactions to the different stimuli; thus they did not react differently based upon kinship or familiarity. Results suggest that this solitary foraging species does not use agonistic calls to recognise kin and monitor agonistic interactions involving kin, unlike several species of Old World monkeys and hyenas. Thus, kin recognition via agonistic calls may have evolved independently in these lineages in parallel with greater social complexity and frequent coalitionary behaviour.


Kessler, S. E., Radespiel, U., Hasiniaina, A. I., Nash, L. T., & Zimmermann, E. (2018). Does the grey mouse lemur use agonistic vocalizations to recognise kin?. Contributions to zoology, 87(4), 261-274

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 26, 2018
Online Publication Date Nov 30, 2018
Publication Date Nov 30, 2018
Deposit Date Oct 30, 2018
Publicly Available Date Jan 15, 2019
Journal Bijdragen tot de dierkunde.
Print ISSN 1383-4517
Electronic ISSN 1875-9866
Publisher Naturalis Biodiversity Center
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 87
Issue 4
Pages 261-274
Publisher URL


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