Threat-related acoustical differences in alarm calls by wild bonnet macaques (Macaca radiata) elicited by python and leopard models

Richard G. Coss, Brenda Mccowan, Uma Ramakrishnan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Wild and urban bonnet macaques (Macaca radiata) were studied in southern India to record alarm calls during presentations of realistic models of spotted and dark leopards (Panthera pardus) and an Indian python (Python molurus). Recordings of alarm calls were made from members of four forest troops at feeding stations who observed brief and prolonged presentations of fully exposed spotted and dark leopard morphs and partially concealed views of the spotted morph. Four different forest troops were presented a slowly moving python near feeding stations. Two predator-inexperienced urban troops from the city of Bangalore were presented either the spotted leopard morph briefly or the python. Analyses of alarm calls revealed differences in acoustic structure, such as a lower harmonic to noise ratio, which can be interpreted as reflecting the level of perceived threat rather than predator type. Noisy alarm calls likely indicate high states of physiological arousal that might provide eavesdropping troop members with information useful for assessing the urgency of the predatory threat. Lack of alarm-call distinctiveness characterizing predator type is complemented by explicit contextual information in which alarm calling to leopards never occurred on the ground whereas nearly all initial python-elicited alarm calls were made by individuals on the ground monitoring the python. The alarm calls of Bangalore monkeys distinguished the leopard and python models, with the latter engendering the noisiest calls and immediate flight to trees. Such flight is unnecessary with the python and suggests that, without appropriate experience with pythons, bonnet macaques adopt less predator specific refuge-seeking behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)352-367
Number of pages16
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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