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The evolution of primate vocal signals: from call production to signal function

School of Life Sciences

About the Project

Research Group: Behavioural Ecology Research Group (BEEC) -

Proposed supervisory team
Dr Jacob Dunn ()
Dr Claudia Wascher ()

Animal Communication

Summary of the research project

Vocal communication is fundamental to primate social behaviour. However, vocalisations vary extremely widely among primate taxa in terms of both acoustic parameters (e.g., call frequency) and the range of vocalisations different species produce (i.e., vocal repertoire). This project aims to develop a new framework to investigate the evolution of primate communication systems using interdisciplinary methods. Research will focus on two model taxa, howler monkeys (Alouatta) and colobine monkeys (Colobinae).

The project aims to: 1) describe the full variation in vocal anatomy among the study species; 2) describe the range of vocalisations produced by each species using bioacoustics methods; and 3) carry out playback experiments on selected species to understand the behavioural function of vocal signals.

The candidate will make significant advances in theoretical aspects of the evolution of animal signals, integrating statistical, field and laboratory analyses. This covers a range of expertise, including: spatial analyses, phylogenetic comparative methods, bioacoustics and anatomy/morphometrics.

Where you’ll study

Cambridge (

Next steps

If you wish to be considered for this project, you will need to apply for our Biology PhD ( In the section of the application form entitled ’Outline research proposal’, please quote the above title and include a research proposal.

Funding Notes

This project is self-funded.
Details of studentships for which funding is available are selected by a competitive process and are advertised on our jobs website (View Website) as they become available.

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