Social drive and the evolution of primate hearing

M. A. Ramsier, A. J. Cunningham, J. J. Finneran, N. J. Dominy
2012 Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Biological Sciences  
The structure and function of primate communication have attracted much attention, and vocal signals, in particular, have been studied in detail. As a general rule, larger social groups emit more types of vocal signals, including those conveying the presence of specific types of predators. The adaptive advantages of receiving and responding to alarm calls are expected to exert a selective pressure on the auditory system. Yet, the comparative biology of primate hearing is limited to select
more » ... s, and little attention has been paid to the effects of social and vocal complexity on hearing. Here, we use the auditory brainstem response method to generate the largest number of standardized audiograms available for any primate radiation. We compared the auditory sensitivities of 11 strepsirrhine species with and without independent contrasts and show that social complexity explains a significant amount of variation in two audiometric parameters-overall sensitivity and high-frequency limit. We verified the generality of this latter result by augmenting our analysis with published data from nine species spanning the primate order. To account for these findings, we develop and test a model of social drive. We hypothesize that social complexity has favoured enhanced hearing sensitivities, especially at higher frequencies.
doi:10.1098/rstb.2011.0219 pmid:22641824 pmcid:PMC3367701 fatcat:lngow2empbaw3nah7jhgzvfzri