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Alarm communication for social species’ survival

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posted on 2022-10-11, 23:05 authored by Vanessa MorrisVanessa Morris

Communication among animals is critical for survival, particularly when a predator is present. The aim of my research was to investigate social species’ alarm vocalisations and establish ways in which this information could be utilised to benefit endangered populations. I analysed vocalisations and behavioural observations of a previously un-investigated, cooperative passerine, the southern pied babbler (Turdoides bicolor), exposed to aerial and terrestrial predators in the wild. I found that individuality was encoded within call acoustics and predator type was not, suggesting recognising group individuals may be of value across predator contexts. I also found individuals would flee from aerial predators and mob terrestrial predators, suggesting they may have an alternative way of communicating a threat. Understanding this complex survival behaviour provides further insight into the function and meaning of alarm communication systems, which is valuable for solving conservation problems. Translocations are a leading conservation tool, yet predation of released individuals is the leading cause of programme failure. A predominant issue is the naivety of captive individuals to threats. I provide a list of recommendations and actions to guide the reinforcement of alarm communication behaviour in captive individuals, emphasising how preservation of this behaviour may greatly improve the likelihood of release success.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Caller identity, but not predator type, is encoded in alarm vocalisations of the cooperative southern pied babbler (Turdoides bicolor) -- Chapter 2. A cause for alarm: increasing translocation success of captive individuals through alarm communication -- References


Submitted: 19 December 2020 as part of the requirements for completion of the degree of Master of Research

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis MRes


Thesis (MRes), Macquarie University, Faculty of Science and Engineering, 2021

Department, Centre or School

Department of Biological Sciences

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Benjamin J. Pitcher

Additional Supervisor 1

Anthony Chariton


Copyright: The Author Copyright disclaimer:




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