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Transmission Characteristics of Primate Vocalizations: Implications for Acoustic Analyses

Public Library of Science
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0023015
  • Research Article
  • Biology
  • Zoology
  • Animal Behavior
  • Engineering
  • Signal Processing
  • Audio Signal Processing
  • Communication
  • Computer Science
  • Musicology
  • Physics


Acoustic analyses have become a staple method in field studies of animal vocal communication, with nearly all investigations using computer-based approaches to extract specific features from sounds. Various algorithms can be used to extract acoustic variables that may then be related to variables such as individual identity, context or reproductive state. Habitat structure and recording conditions, however, have strong effects on the acoustic structure of sound signals. The purpose of this study was to identify which acoustic parameters reliably describe features of propagated sounds. We conducted broadcast experiments and examined the influence of habitat type, transmission height, and re-recording distance on the validity (deviation from the original sound) and reliability (variation within identical recording conditions) of acoustic features of different primate call types. Validity and reliability varied independently of each other in relation to habitat, transmission height, and re-recording distance, and depended strongly on the call type. The smallest deviations from the original sounds were obtained by a visually-controlled calculation of the fundamental frequency. Start- and end parameters of a sound were most susceptible to degradation in the environment. Because the recording conditions can have appreciable effects on acoustic parameters, it is advisable to validate the extraction method of acoustic variables from recordings over longer distances before using them in acoustic analyses.

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