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Affect cues in vocalizations of the bat, Megaderma lyra, during agonistic interactions.

The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America

Vocalization, Animal, Sound Spectrography, Male, Female, Cues, Chiroptera, Behavior, Animal, Animals, Affect

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      Some features of emotional prosody in human speech may be traced back to affect cues in mammalian vocalizations. The present study addresses the question whether affect intensity, as expressed by the intensity of behavioral displays, is encoded in vocal cues, i.e., changes in the structure of associated calls, in bats, a group evolutionarily remote from primates. A frame-by-frame video analysis of 109 dyadic agonistic interactions recorded in approach situations was performed to categorize displays into two intensity levels based on a cost-benefit estimate. M. lyra showed graded visual displays accompanied by specific calls and response calls of the second bat. A sound analysis revealed systematic changes of call sequence parameters with display level. At the high intensity level, total call duration, number of syllables within a call, and the number of calls within a sequence were increased, while intervals between call syllables were decreased for both call types. In addition, the latency of the response call was shorter, and its main syllable-type durations and fundamental frequency were increased. These systematic changes of vocal parameters with affect intensity correspond to prosodic changes in human speech, suggesting that emotion-related acoustic cues are a common feature of vocal communication in mammals.

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