Is physiological stress state reflected in acoustic structure of vocalizations? An experimental test in wild North American red squirrels

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
Matt SehrsweeneyBen Dantzer


Acoustic signaling is an important means by which animals communicate both stable and labile characteristics. Although it is widely appreciated that vocalizations can convey information on labile state, such as fear and aggression, very few studies have experimentally examined the acoustic expression of short-term stress state. The transmission of such information about physiological state could have broad implications, potentially allowing other individuals to modify their behavior or life history traits in response to this public information. North American red squirrels ( Tamiasciurus hudsonicus ) produce vocalizations known as rattles that advertise territorial ownership. We examined the influence of changes in physiological stress state on rattle acoustic structure through the application of a stressor (trapping and handling the squirrels) and by provisioning squirrels with exogenous glucocorticoids (GCs). We characterized the acoustic structure of rattles emitted by these squirrels by measuring rattle duration, mean frequency, and entropy. Our results provide mixed evidence that rattles show a stress signature. When squirrels were trapped and handled, they produced rattles that were longer in duration with a higher freque...Continue Reading

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