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  Vocal turn-taking in meerkat group calling sessions

Demartsev, V., Strandburg-Peshkin, A., Ruffner, M., & Manser, M. (2018). Vocal turn-taking in meerkat group calling sessions. Current Biology, 28(22), 3661-3666.e3. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2018.09.065.

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Demartsev, Vlad1, Author              
Strandburg-Peshkin, Ariana1, Author              
Ruffner, M., Author
Manser, M., Author
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1University of Zurich, ou_persistent22              

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 Abstract: Coordination is a fundamental aspect of social living, underlying processes ranging from the maintenance of group cohesion to the avoidance of competition. Coordination can manifest as synchronization, where individuals perform the same action at the same time but can also take the form of anti-synchronization or turn-taking. Turn-taking has mainly been studied in the context of the development of language [1] due to the fact that it is a universal feature in all languages and has been found to appear early in infancy [2, 3]. Recently, turn-taking has received attention in animal communication research [4-7] as a potential foundation on which social communication was formed [1, 3]. In this study, we describe turn-taking in group-wide vocal interactions of meerkats (Suricata suricatta) during low-conflict sunning behavior, which is accompanied by the production of specific "sunning calls." We show that sunning-call production is socially stimulated and that at the group level, meerkats avoid overlap, thus fulfilling a key principle of turn-taking [8]. Through observational data and playback experiments, we show that these group-level patterns arise from two individual-level rules: call inhibition over short timescales, which prevents mutual interference, and call excitation over longer timescales, which stimulates further group calling. These simple rules suggest that hierarchy formation and turn allocation are not required for achieving group-wide coordination of communication. We also suggest that the potential bonding function of turn-taking shown in humans might have similar effects in animal interactions.

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 Dates: 2018-11-19
 Publication Status: Published in print
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 Identifiers: Other: WOS:000450614200028
DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2018.09.065
ISSN: 0960-9822
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Title: Current Biology
  Other : Curr. Biol.
Source Genre: Journal
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Publ. Info: London, UK : Cell Press
Pages: - Volume / Issue: 28 (22) Sequence Number: - Start / End Page: 3661 - 3666.e3 Identifier: ISSN: 0960-9822
CoNE: https://pure.mpg.de/cone/journals/resource/954925579107