Is physiological stress state reflected in acoustic structure of vocalizations? An experimental test in wild North American red squirrels [article]

Matt Sehrsweeney, David R. Wilson, Maggie Bain, Stan Boutin, Jeffrey E. Lane, Andrew G. McAdam, Ben Dantzer
2018 bioRxiv   pre-print
AbstractAcoustic signaling is an important means by which animals communicate both stable and labile characteristics. Although it is widely appreciated that vocalizations can convey information on labile state, such as fear and aggression, very few studies have experimentally examined the acoustic expression of short-term stress state. The transmission of such information about physiological state could have broad implications, potentially allowing other individuals to modify their behavior or
more » ... ife history traits in response to this public information. North American red squirrels (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) produce vocalizations known as rattles that advertise territorial ownership. We examined the influence of changes in physiological stress state on rattle acoustic structure through the application of a stressor (trapping and handling the squirrels) and by provisioning squirrels with exogenous glucocorticoids (GCs). We characterized the acoustic structure of rattles emitted by these squirrels by measuring rattle duration, mean frequency, and entropy. Our results provide mixed evidence that rattles show a "stress signature". When squirrels were trapped and handled, they produced rattles that were longer in duration with a higher frequency and increased entropy. However, squirrels that were administered exogenous GCs had similar rattle duration, frequency, and entropy as squirrels that received control treatments and unmanipulated (unfed) squirrels. Our results indicate that short-term stress does affect the acoustic structure of vocalizations, but elevated circulating GC levels are not solely responsible for such changes.
doi:10.1101/456830 fatcat:fdalbcu74jce3mfrh7e6gjmzxe