Production and perception of sex differences in vocalizations of Wied's black-tufted-ear marmosets (Callithrix kuhlii)

Adam S. Smith, Andrew K. Birnie, Kent R. Lane, Jeffrey A. French

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

14 Scopus citations


Males and females from many species produce distinct acoustic variations of functionally identical call types. Social behavior may be primed by sex-specific variation in acoustic features of calls. We present a series of acoustic analyses and playback experiments as methods for investigating this subject. Acoustic parameters of phee calls produced by Wied's black-tufted-ear marmosets (Callithrix kuhlii) were analyzed for sex differences. Discriminant function analyses showed that calls contained sufficient acoustic variation to predict the sex of the caller. Several frequency variables differed significantly between the sexes. Natural and synthesized calls were presented to male-female pairs. Calls elicited differential behavioral responses based on the sex of the caller. Marmosets became significantly more vigilant following the playback of male phee calls (both natural and synthetic) than following female phee calls. In a second playback experiment, synthesized calls were modified by independently manipulating three parameters that were known to differ between the sexes (low-, peak-, and end-frequency). When end-frequency-modified calls were presented, responsiveness was differentiable by sex of caller but did not differ from responses to natural calls. This suggests that marmosets did not use end-frequency to determine the sex of the caller. Manipulation of peak-and low-frequency parameters eliminated the discrete behavioral responses to male and female calls. Together, these parameters may be important features that encode for the sex-specific signal. Recognition of sex by acoustic cues seems to be a multivariate process that depends on the congruency of acoustic features. Am. J. Primatol. 71:324-332, 2009.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)324-332
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Primatology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2009


  • Long-distance vocalizations
  • Marmoset
  • Perceptual mechanism
  • Sex differences
  • Signal production
  • Vocal behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology

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