Sex Differences in the Use of Whinny Vocalizations in Spider Monkeys (Ateles geoffroyi)

Colin Dubreuil, Hugh Notman, Mary S.M. Pavelka

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Articlepeer-review

    8 Citations (Scopus)


    In species in which males and females exhibit different association patterns, the use of vocalizations that regulate interindividual distance may differ between the sexes. Spider monkey social groups are characterized by high fission–fusion dynamics and sex differences in association patterns; female–female associations have been described as more passive than those between philopatric males. Individuals of both sexes produce whinny vocalizations, which may allow callers and receivers to mediate interindividual spacing based on existing social relationships. As such, we hypothesized individuals of each sex would use whinny vocalizations at different rates and in different contexts. To investigate sex differences in the rate of whinnying across behavioral contexts, we collected focal animal samples on Yucatan spider monkeys (Ateles geoffroyi yucatanensis) over 8 mo at Runaway Creek Nature Reserve, Belize. In addition, we recorded all changes in subgroup composition to investigate whether a female’s likelihood of calling was influenced by the number of conspecifics joining, or leaving their subgroup. We found that females called at higher rates than males in most behavioral contexts, especially foraging. The probability that females would call increased during subgroup fissions and fusions, and correlated positively with the number of individuals joining or leaving their subgroup. Male calling rates did not differ across contexts, and males generally called less than females. Our results suggest that whinnying by females may allow callers to mediate interindividual spacing in contexts where proximity risks increasing feeding competition. In species in which the sexes associate in qualitatively different ways, vocalizations may play a role in maintaining these differences.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)412-428
    Number of pages17
    JournalInternational Journal of Primatology
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr. 2015


    • Association
    • Contact call
    • Female
    • Fission–fusion
    • Male
    • Signaling
    • Vocal communication


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