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To grunt or not to grunt: Factors governing call production in female olive baboons, Papio anubis.


Vocal signals often play an important role in synchronizing the activities of group members, coordinating decisions about when and where to travel, and facilitating social interactions in which there are potential conflicts of interest. Here, we show that when female olive baboons (Papio anubis) give low amplitude grunts after approaching other females, they are less likely to behave aggressively toward their partners and more likely to handle their partners' infants and interact affiliatively with them. In addition, females are more likely to grunt after they approach lower ranking females than after they approach higher ranking females and are less likely to grunt after they approach their own mothers and daughters than after they approach other females. These patterns, which are strikingly similar to patterns previously reported in chacma baboons (Papio ursinus) support the hypothesis that grunts function as signals of benign intent. Moreover, they suggest that actors' decisions about whether to grunt or remain silent are influenced by the social context, particularly their partners' likely response to their approach. Taken together, the patterning of grunts in olive and chacma baboon suggests that these vocalizations play an important in reducing uncertainty about actors' intentions and facilitate nonaggressive social interactions.

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