Acoustical expression of arousal in conflict situations in tree shrews (Tupaia belangeri)

J Comp Physiol A Neuroethol Sens Neural Behav Physiol. 2007 Aug;193(8):845-52. doi: 10.1007/s00359-007-0236-8. Epub 2007 May 23.


Empirical research on human and non-human primates suggests that communication sounds express the intensity of an emotional state of a signaller. In the present study, we have examined communication sounds during induced social interactions of a monogamous mammal, the tree shrew. To signal their unwillingness to mate, female tree shrews show defensive threat displays towards unfamiliar males paralleled by acoustically variable squeaks. We assumed that the distance between interacting partners as well as the behavior of the male towards the female indicates the intensity of perceived social threat and thereby the arousal state of a female. To explore this hypothesis we analyzed dynamic changes in communication sounds uttered during induced social interactions between a female and an unfamiliar male. Detailed videographic and sound analyzes revealed that the arousal state predicted variations in communication sound structure reliably. Both, a decrease of distance and a male approaching the female led to an increase in fundamental frequency and repetition rate of syllables. These findings support comparable results in human and non-human primates and suggest that common coding rules in communication sounds govern acoustic conflict regulation in mammals.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustics
  • Animal Communication
  • Animals
  • Conflict, Psychological
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Female
  • Male
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Social Behavior
  • Tupaia / physiology*
  • Vocalization, Animal / physiology*