Threat-level-dependent manipulation of signaled body size: dog growls’ indexical cues depend on the different levels of potential danger

Anna Bálint, Tamás Faragó, A. Miklósi, P. Pongrácz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

6 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Body size is an important feature that affects fighting ability; however, size-related parameters of agonistic vocalizations are difficult to manipulate because of anatomical constraints within the vocal production system. Rare examples of acoustic size modulation are due to specific features that enable the sender to steadily communicate exaggerated body size. However, one could argue that it would be more adaptive if senders could adjust their signaling behavior to the fighting potential of their actual opponent. So far there has been no experimental evidence for this possibility. We tested this hypothesis by exposing family dogs (Canis familiaris) to humans with potentially different fighting ability. In a within-subject experiment, 64 dogs of various breeds consecutively faced two threateningly approaching humans, either two men or two women of different stature, or a man and a woman of similar or different stature. We found that the dogs’ vocal responses were affected by the gender of the threatening stranger and the dog owner’s gender. Dogs with a female owner, or those dogs which came from a household where both genders were present, reacted with growls of lower values of the Pitch–Formant component (including deeper fundamental frequency and lower formant dispersion) to threatening men. Our results are the first to show that non-human animals react with dynamic alteration of acoustic parameters related to their individual indexical features (body size), depending on the level of threat in an agonistic encounter.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalAnimal Cognition
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Jul 29 2016

Fingerprint

Body Size
Cues
body size
Dogs
dogs
fighting
gender
Aptitude
acoustics
Acoustics
Canidae
dog breeds
vocalization
households
production technology
production system
dog
animal
animals
experiment

Keywords

  • Communication
  • Dog growl
  • Indexical information
  • Manipulation
  • Threat

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology

Cite this

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abstract = "Body size is an important feature that affects fighting ability; however, size-related parameters of agonistic vocalizations are difficult to manipulate because of anatomical constraints within the vocal production system. Rare examples of acoustic size modulation are due to specific features that enable the sender to steadily communicate exaggerated body size. However, one could argue that it would be more adaptive if senders could adjust their signaling behavior to the fighting potential of their actual opponent. So far there has been no experimental evidence for this possibility. We tested this hypothesis by exposing family dogs (Canis familiaris) to humans with potentially different fighting ability. In a within-subject experiment, 64 dogs of various breeds consecutively faced two threateningly approaching humans, either two men or two women of different stature, or a man and a woman of similar or different stature. We found that the dogs’ vocal responses were affected by the gender of the threatening stranger and the dog owner’s gender. Dogs with a female owner, or those dogs which came from a household where both genders were present, reacted with growls of lower values of the Pitch–Formant component (including deeper fundamental frequency and lower formant dispersion) to threatening men. Our results are the first to show that non-human animals react with dynamic alteration of acoustic parameters related to their individual indexical features (body size), depending on the level of threat in an agonistic encounter.",
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