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Durham University

Department of Anthropology


Publication details for Dr Sharon Kessler

Kessler, Sharon E., Radespiel, Ute, Hasiniaina, Alida I. F., Nash, Leanne T. & Zimmermann, Elke (2018). Does the grey mouse lemur use agonistic vocalizations to recognise kin? Contributions to Zoology 87(4): 261-274.

Author(s) from Durham


Frequent kin-biased coalitionary behaviour is a hallmark
of mammalian social complexity. Furthermore, selection to
understand complex social dynamics is believed to underlie
the co-evolution of social complexity and large brains.
Vocalisations have been shown to be an important mechanism
with which large-brained mammals living in complex social
groups recognise and recruit kin for coalitionary support during
agonistic conflicts. We test whether kin recognition via agonistic
calls occurs in a small-brained solitary foraging primate living in
a dispersed social network, the grey mouse lemur (Microcebus
murinus, Miller JF, 1777). As mouse lemurs are frequent models
for ancestral solitary foraging mammals, this study examines
whether kin recognition via agonistic calls could be the
foundation from which more complex, kin-based coalitionary
behaviour evolved. We test whether female wild mouse lemurs
in Ankarafantsika National Park, Madagascar, react differently
to agonistic calls from kin and nonkin and to calls from familiar
and unfamiliar individuals during playback experiments.
Subjects showed no significant differences in reactions to the
different stimuli; thus they did not react differently based upon
kinship or familiarity. Results suggest that this solitary foraging
species does not use agonistic calls to recognise kin and monitor
agonistic interactions involving kin, unlike several species
of Old World monkeys and hyenas. Thus, kin recognition
via agonistic calls may have evolved independently in these
lineages in parallel with greater social complexity and frequent
coalitionary behaviour.