Do singing rock hyraxes exploit conspecific calls to gain attention?

Amiyaal Ilany*, Adi Barocas, Lee Koren, Michael Kam, Eli Geffen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Signal detection theory predicts that signals directed at distant or busy receivers in noisy backgrounds will begin with an alert component, in order to draw attention. Instead of an alert component, however, animals could get the same effect by using an external stimulus. Here we combined observations of free-living rock hyraxes (Procavia capensis) with playback experiments to elucidate the circumstances under which males begin singing. We show that males sing following hyrax pup screams, which elicit a strong response from hyraxes within hearing distance, which are potential receivers. We hypothesize that singers enhance their singing display by exploiting the rarely emitted pup screams. To our knowledge, our findings are the first indication that animals may enhance signal reception by exploiting conspecifics' signals and the differential attention to these signals. We suggest that the utilization of external stimuli by signalers may be widespread, as an adaptive strategy for communication in complex environments.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere28612
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number12
StatePublished - 6 Dec 2011


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