Vol 7, Issue 2, May 2020

Vervet Monkey Alarm Calls: Setting the Historical Context


Snowdon, C. T. (2020). Vervet monkey alarm calls: Setting the historical context. Animal Behavior and Cognition, 7(2), 87-94. doi: https://doi.org/10.26451/abc.


I review the historical context in which the vervet alarm call papers first appeared, showing that animal behavior researchers at the time were studying a wide array of cognitive abilities in primate communication. I then review how the initial study on vervet alarms has led to research on referential alarm calls in other primates as well as in non-primate species. I briefly review work on food-related calling as another type of referential signal. Overall, the vervet alarm papers have stimulated great interest in the cognitive complexity of animal signals, but, strikingly, it has been difficult to find clear evidence of predator specific alarms in more than a small number of other species. Future research should look at how motivation, emotional and cognitive components are included in animal calls, as well as study how animals respond flexibly to different social or environmental in their communication.


Referential signals, Alarm calls, Food-related calls, Vocal communication, Context, Cognition