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Vocal communication among hyenas

Trainee Achievements

Vocal communication among hyenas

Trainee Andy Gersick spent this year in the Masai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya, studying vocal communication among spotted hyenas (Crocuta crocuta). Hyena society is structurally similar to many social primates, making them an interesting test species for investigating the role that social challenges play in shaping behavioral and cognitive adaptations. Andy's research examines the flexibility and informational carrying capacity of hyenas' long-distance calls, called whoops. For the year, he followed three clans of hyenas in the Masai Mara, recording the whoop bouts produced in different social contexts. Preliminary analyses reveal several sound properties that might provide distant hyenas with information about the circumstances under which a given whoop bout was produced. He is currently conducting “playback” experiments, which use digitally altered whoops from his collection to test whether these alterations will lead to predictably variable responses in wild hyenas.