Individuality but not stability in marmoset long calls

Dan D. Jorgensen, Jeffrey A French

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

42 Scopus citations


Individually distinct communication signals ('signatures') have been documented in a variety of taxa across signal modalities and they serve a host of important functions. However, studies have rarely examined the temporal stability of these signals. Cooperatively breeding species, such as marmosets and tamarins, are characterized by long-term group membership, complex social organization, and high levels of interindividual coordination of behaviour. These social attributes may promote complex, individually distinct and stable acoustic signals to facilitate the expression of cooperative behaviour. In this study, the long calls of socially housed individual Wied's black tufted-ear marmosets, Callithrix kuhli, were examined for a 'signature system' potentially important in such interactions: Vocalizations were recorded at three different times (1993, 1995, 1996), digitized, and then measured by spectrographic analysis. Acoustic and temporal features of the calls were examined, including number of syllables, length of syllables, intersyllable interval, frequency range, start/stop frequency, peak frequency, and total call duration. A number of significant intra-individual changes in acoustic parameters were identified across the recording periods. Discriminant analysis revealed that many variables contributed to differentiation among individuals, and average classification accuracy for calls within a given year was high, ranging from 91.7 % to 93.5 %. However, reclassification accuracy for calls between-years was much poorer, averaging less than 50 %. In addition, classification confidence was higher for within-year scores in contrast to the between-year values. Thus, tufted-ear marmosets have an individually distinct vocalization which is acoustically modified across time. Our finding suggests that to the extent that the vocalization is used for individual recognition, recognition mechanisms must be modified over time as well.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)729-742
Number of pages14
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sep 1 1998


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology

Cite this