When two species have predators in common, animals might be able to obtain important information about predation risk from the alarm calls produced by the other species. The behavioural responses of adult yellow-bellied marmots, Marmota flaviventris , and golden-mantled ground squirrels, Spermophilus lateralis , to conspecific and heterospecific alarm calls were studied to determine whether interspecific call recognition occurs in sympatric species that rarely interact. In a crossed design, marmot and squirrel alarm calls were broadcast to individuals of both species, using the song of a sympatric bird as a control. Individuals of both species responded similarly to conspecific and heterospecific anti-predator calls, and distinguished both types of alarms from the bird song. These results indicate that both marmots and squirrels recognized not only their own species' anti-predator vocalizations, but also the alarm calls of another species, and that these vocalizations were discriminated from an equally loud non-threatening sound. These findings suggest that researchers ought to think broadly when considering the sources of information available to animals in their natural environment.
Animal Behaviour – Elsevier
Published: Mar 1, 1998
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