Vervet monkey (Chlorocebus pygerythrus) alarm calls to leopards (Panthera pardus) function as a predator deterrent

in Behaviour
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Behavioural predator–prey interactions are difficult to study, especially when predators avoid humans. To gain greater understanding of their dynamism, we conducted a 14-month field study in which we minimized human presence by employing acoustic recorders and camera traps, along with GPS collars deployed on vervet monkeys (Chlorocebus pygerythrus) and leopards (Panthera pardus) in Laikipia, Kenya. Recordings at the vervets’ sleeping site revealed that they gave ‘leopard’ alarm calls most frequently near dusk and dawn, whereas photographs showed that leopards approached vervets more closely at night, when the monkeys alarm-called less often. GPS data showed that after vervets alarm-called, leopards within 200 m quickly moved away, changing direction, but when vervets did not alarm-call, leopards continued moving forward. These results reveal that vervets’ leopard alarm calls function as a predator deterrent in addition to a conspecific warning call.

Vervet monkey (Chlorocebus pygerythrus) alarm calls to leopards (Panthera pardus) function as a predator deterrent

in Behaviour



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    Number of 1-h audio files during which vervets gave leopard alarm calls in a given hour during the sampling period vs. number of times in a given hour in which camera traps photographed leopards at the sleeping site. N, audio files per h = 298–305.

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    Proximity of collared leopards to collared vervets on the three nights when the leopards approached the vervets’ sleeping site, and on the one evening when vervets approached the leopard, before and after vervets gave alarm calls. Open symbols = proximity before alarm calls began; solid symbols = proximity after alarm calls began. Solid lines = nights leopard moved away >200 m from vervets after alarm calls; dashed line = night vervets moved >200 m away from leopard before giving alarm calls. Distance between consecutive symbols reflects speed of travel.

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    Leopard movements on nights when vervets gave alarm calls. AC (top right), time of first alarm call; solid circles, location of leopard at 15-min intervals; V, location of collared vervet.

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    Leopard movements on nights when vervets did not give alarm calls. No AC (top right), no alarm calls; solid circles, location of leopard at 15-min intervals; V, location of collared vervet.

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