The function of variation in single call duration and alarm calling bouts was investigated in Brants' whistling rat, Parotomys brantsii, by means of playback experiments and video analyses of the vigilance displayed. Short calls are produced in high-risk situations, and long calls in low-risk encounters, but these calls apparently do not communicate this variance in risk to conspecifics. Both short and long single calls induced heightened vigilance in receivers, but rats did not respond differentially to the two call types, and it was concluded that P.brantsii alarm calls are not functionally referential. Multiple calls maintained a state of increased alertness in receivers for a longer period than single calls, even after the bouts had ended, but long bouts (duration: 64 s) did not lead to longer periods of vigilance than short bouts (29 s). Thus the tonic communication hypothesis is only partially supported by our study.