Alarm signals of the great gerbil: Acoustic variation by predator context, sex, age, individual, and family group

Jan A. Randall, Brenda Mccowan, Kellie C. Collins, Stacie L. Hooper, Konstantin Rogovin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

28 Scopus citations


The great gerbil, Rhombomys opinus, is a highly social rodent that usually lives in family groups consisting of related females, their offspring, and an adult male. The gerbils emit alarm vocalizations in the presence of diverse predators with different hunting tactics. Alarm calls were recorded in response to three predators, a monitor lizard, hunting dog, and human, to determine whether the most common call type, the rhythmic call, is functionally referential with regard to type of predator. Results show variation in the alarm calls of both adults and subadults with the type of predator. Discriminant function analysis classified an average of 70% of calls to predator type. Call variation, however, was not limited to the predator context, because signal structure also differed by sex, age, individual callers, and family groups. These variations illustrate the flexibility of the rhythmic alarm call of the great gerbil and how it might have multiple functions and communicate in multiple contexts. Three alarm calls, variation in the rhythmic call, and vibrational signals generated from foot-drumming provide the gerbils with a varied and multi-channel acoustic repertoire.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2706-2714
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the Acoustical Society of America
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2005


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Acoustics and Ultrasonics

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