Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Tiny primate is ultrasonic communicator

Date:
February 8, 2012
Source:
Dartmouth College
Summary:
Tarsiers' ultrasonic calls -- among the most extreme in the animal kingdom -- give them a "private channel" of communication, says an anthropologist.

The Philippine tarsier, Tarsius syrichta, is the focus of a study on its ultrasonic mode of communication.
Credit: Photo courtesy of Nathaniel Dominy

Tarsiers are pint-size primates from Southeast Asia who produce some of the most extreme ultrasonic calls in the animal kingdom, well beyond the threshold of human hearing.

They belong to a relict lineage of primates that gave rise to monkeys and apes about 60 million years ago, and for the past 45 million years tarsiers have been largely unchanged. Although tarsiers are important "living fossils," they are difficult to study in the wild. Scarcely five inches high, they are nocturnal and subsist mostly on a diet of insects, along with some small vertebrates such as lizards and snakes.

Nathaniel Dominy, an associate professor of anthropology at Dartmouth, describes the tarsier's ultrasonic vocalizations as "extreme, and comparable to the highly specialized vocalizations of bats and dolphins, which are used primarily for echolocation."

Dominy and a cadre of colleagues have been studying the hearing and vocalizations of one tarsier species in the Philippines, Tarsius syrichta. Results of their research appeared online in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters, on February 8, 2012.

Some species of tarsier seem rather talkative, with a range of calls audible to humans and capable of "conveying alarm, deterring rivals, and facilitating social interactions," the authors note. In contrast, tarsiers from Borneo and the Philippines have conventionally been described as "ordinarily silent." This apparent lack of vocalizations led investigators to suspect that the animals were indeed engaged in these critical communications. We just couldn't hear them.

Recent technical advances allowed the investigators to test the hearing of six wild tarsiers on the island of Mindanao. They found "an audible range that extended substantially into the ultrasound," reaching a high of 91 kilohertz (kHz), "a value that surpasses the known range of all other primates and is matched by few animals."

They also used a microphone and recording unit capable of registering sounds up 96 kHz. The upper limit of human hearing is generally set at 20 kHz, and frequencies above this limit are classified as ultrasound. In the field, the team recorded the sounds of 35 wild tarsiers from the islands of Bohol and Leyte with this equipment, documenting eight individuals giving out a purely ultrasonic call at approximately 70 kHz. The tone-like structure of the call resembles those of other tarsier species, but none were purely ultrasonic.

The researchers observed that tarsiers emitted their ultrasonic call when humans were near, suggesting they were voicing alarm. "Ultrasonic alarm calls can be advantageous to both the signaler and receiver as they are potentially difficult for predators to detect and localize," they write.

Dominy and his group conclude that there may be selective advantages to vocalizations in the pure ultrasound. They call them "private channels of communication with the potential to subvert detection by predators, prey, and competitors."

"Our findings not only verify that tarsiers are sensitive to the ultrasound, but also that Tarsius syrichta can send and receive vocal signals in the pure ultrasound," Dominy says.

The Tarsier's ultrasonic call

Slowed down to be audible to humans. Warning! This is not a pleasant sound. You may find it uncomfortable to listen to.

Listen to the audio


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Dartmouth College. The original article was written by Joseph Blumberg. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. M. A. Ramsier, A. J. Cunningham, G. L. Moritz, J. J. Finneran, C. V. Williams, P. S. Ong, S. L. Gursky-Doyen, N. J. Dominy. Primate communication in the pure ultrasound. Biology Letters, 2012; DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2011.1149

Cite This Page:

Dartmouth College. "Tiny primate is ultrasonic communicator." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 February 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120208220210.htm>.
Dartmouth College. (2012, February 8). Tiny primate is ultrasonic communicator. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120208220210.htm
Dartmouth College. "Tiny primate is ultrasonic communicator." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120208220210.htm (accessed August 20, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Possible Ebola Patient in Isolation at California Hospital

Possible Ebola Patient in Isolation at California Hospital

Reuters - US Online Video (Aug. 20, 2014) — A patient who may have been exposed to the Ebola virus is in isolation at the Kaiser Permanente South Sacramento Medical Center. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Flower Power! Dandelions Make Car Tires?

Flower Power! Dandelions Make Car Tires?

Reuters - Business Video Online (Aug. 20, 2014) — Forget rolling on rubber, could car drivers soon be traveling on tires made from dandelions? Teams of scientists are racing to breed a type of the yellow flower whose taproot has a milky fluid with tire-grade rubber particles in it. As Joanna Partridge reports, global tire makers are investing millions in research into a new tire source. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Unsustainable Elephant Poaching Killed 100K In 3 Years

Unsustainable Elephant Poaching Killed 100K In 3 Years

Newsy (Aug. 20, 2014) — Poachers have killed 100,000 elephants between 2010 and 2012, as the booming ivory trade takes its toll on the animals in Africa. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Awesome New Camouflage Sheet Was Inspired By Octopus Skin

Awesome New Camouflage Sheet Was Inspired By Octopus Skin

Newsy (Aug. 19, 2014) — Scientists have developed a new device that mimics the way octopuses blend in with their surroundings to hide from dangerous predators. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins