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The function and structure of ‘nest calls’ in wild chimpanzees


   Faculty of Natural Sciences


About the Project

Exploring the relationship between the function and structure of calls in evolutionarily closely related to humans species can give us insight into the evolution of human communication. Chimpanzees, for example, produce complex vocal sequences, such as long-distance pant hoots, which are sophisticated at both structural (i.e. sequences comprise acoustically different elements) and functional level (i.e. different elements play different functions) (Fedurek et al. 2013, 2016). However, while most research on chimpanzee vocal behavior has focused on long-range call production and exchanges, little is known about short-range calls in this species. These calls, however, could be very intricate in terms of both structure and function. For example, our initial observations suggest that chimpanzee ‘nest calls’ (calls produced during nesting) often form structurally complex sequences comprising several different call types, such as hoos, grunts, and soft barks. Such nest calls are often exchanged between several nesting individuals. However, despite the apparent complexity of these calls, there have been no systematic studies looking at their acoustic structure or function. Accordingly, the aim of this PhD project is to explore in detail the acoustic structure and function of nest calls in chimpanzees. Supervised by Dr Pawel Fedurek and Dr Gema Martin-Ordas, the PhD students will conduct fieldwork to investigate nest calling behaviour of wild chimpanzees in Budongo Forest, Uganda.

Application Requirements:
Eligible applicants should –
• Hold a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, Biology and related fields. A relevant MSc qualification is desirable.
• Fieldwork experience with non-human primates is essential.

Funding Notes

The PhD project is self-funded. Tuition fees are available at:
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