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Who's your neighbor? Acoustic cues to individual identity in red squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) rattle calls

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rattle calls, individual identity, acoustic, red squirrels

Abstract (summary)

North American red squirrels (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) often produce a loud territorial rattle call when conspecifics enter or invade a territory. Previous playback experiments suggest that the territorial rattle call may indicate an invader's identity as squirrels responded more intensely to calls played from strangers than to calls played from neighbors. This dear- enemy effect is well known in a variety of bird and mammal species and functions to reduce aggressive interactions between known neighbours. However, although previous experiments on red squirrels suggest some form of individual differentiation and thus recognition, detailed acoustic analysis of potential acoustic cues in rattle calls have not been conducted. If calls function to aid in conspecific identification in order to mitigate aggressive territorial interactions, we would expect that individual recognition cues would be acoustically represented. Our work provides a detailed analysis of acoustic cues to identity within rattle calls. A total of 225 calls across 32 individual squirrels from Sheep River Provincial Park, Kananaskis, AB, Canada, were analyzed with discriminant function analysis for potential acoustic cues to individual identity. Initial analysis of all individuals revealed a reliable acoustic differentiation across individuals. A more detailed analysis of clusters of neighbouring squirrels was performed and results again indicated a statistically significant likelihood that calls were assigned correctly to specific squirrels (55-75% correctly assigned); in other words squirrels have distinct voices that should allow for individual identification and discrimination by conspecifics.

Publication Information

Digweed, S. M., Rendall, D., & Imbeau, T. (2012). Who's your neighbor? Acoustic cues to individual identity in red squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) rattle calls. Current Zoology, 58(5), 758-764. Retrieved from



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