Age differences and developmental trends in alarm peep responses by squirrel monkeys (Saimiri sciureus)

Brenda Mccowan, Nick V. Franceschini, Greg A. Vicino

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Alarm calls can code for different classes of predators or different types of predatory threat. Acoustic information can also encode the urgency of threat through variations in acoustic features within specific alarm call types. Squirrel monkeys (Saimiri sciureus) produce an alarm call, known as the alarm peep, in highly threatening situations. Infant squirrel monkeys appear to have an innate predisposition to respond to alarm peeps but require experience to associate alarm peeps with the appropriate type of predatory threat [Herzog & Hopf, American Journal of Primatology 7:99-106, 1984]. Little is known about age-related differences in the type or frequency of response to alarm peeps, or the development of alarm peep response in infants. The purpose of this study was to test experimentally the response strategies of different age classes of squirrel monkey to the playback of alarm peeps that were produced by infants, juveniles, or adults. Results suggest that infants, juveniles, and female subadults respond more frequently to alarm peeps than do adult females. Infant squirrel monkeys showed different behavioral strategies in response to alarm peeps as a function of age. Adult females differentiate between infant and adult alarm peeps by responding more frequently to the alarm peeps of adult females. These data demonstrate that squirrel monkeys use acoustic information to discern when to respond to the alarm peeps from conspecifics, and that infants gradually develop an adult-like response to alarm peeps over the first year of development. Am. J. Primatol. 53:19-31, 2001.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)19-31
Number of pages13
JournalAmerican Journal of Primatology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2001


  • Adaptive behavior
  • Development
  • Playback experimentation
  • Squirrel monkey
  • Vocal communication

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology


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