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Call combinations, vocal exchanges and interparty movement in wild bonobos

Schamberg, Isaac; Cheney, Dorothy L.; Clay, Zanna; Hohmann, Gottfried; Seyfarth, Robert M.


Isaac Schamberg

Dorothy L. Cheney

Gottfried Hohmann

Robert M. Seyfarth


The vocal repertoire of nonhuman primates is largely fixed. Individuals produce their species-specific vocalizations from a young age, and do not acquire new call types over their lifetime. Despite these limitations, however, monkeys and apes are able to increase their vocal flexibility in several ways, including subtle acoustic modification, call combinations, turn-taking and call persistence. Although primates have been observed to utilize these communicative features, the extent to which they integrate these abilities is not known. Here we show that certain long-distance calls produced by wild bonobos, Pan paniscus, assimilate several aspects of vocal flexibility in ways not previously documented in nonhuman primates. Communication between foraging parties exhibits context-specific call combinations relating to the movement of caller, call modifications that potentially target particular individuals, call-and-answer exchanges in which the initial caller's behaviour depends on the listener's reply, and possible persistence in call production. The selective pressure exerted by bonobos' fission–fusion social structure has likely favoured the integration of these communicative capabilities.


Schamberg, I., Cheney, D. L., Clay, Z., Hohmann, G., & Seyfarth, R. M. (2016). Call combinations, vocal exchanges and interparty movement in wild bonobos. Animal Behaviour, 122, 109-116.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jul 27, 2016
Online Publication Date Nov 6, 2016
Publication Date Dec 1, 2016
Deposit Date Apr 19, 2017
Journal Animal Behaviour
Print ISSN 0003-3472
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 122
Pages 109-116