Moderate evidence for heritability in the duet contributions of a South American primate

Dena J. Clink, Allison R. Lau, Sreetharan Kanthaswamy, Lynn M. Johnson, Karen L. Bales

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Acoustic signals are ubiquitous across mammalian taxa. They serve a myriad of functions related to the formation and maintenance of social bonds and can provide conspecifics information about caller condition, motivation and identity. Disentangling the relative importance of evolutionary mechanisms that shape vocal variation is difficult, and little is known about heritability of mammalian vocalizations. Duetting––coordinated vocalizations within male and female pairs––arose independently at least four times across the Primate Order. Primate duets contain individual- or pair-level signatures, but the mechanisms that shape this variation remain unclear. Here, we test for evidence of heritability in two call types (pulses and chirps) from the duets of captive coppery titi monkeys (Plecturocebus cupreus). We extracted four features––note rate, duration, minimum and maximum fundamental frequency––from spectrograms of pulses and chirps, and estimated heritability of the features. We also tested whether features varied with sex or body weight. We found evidence for moderate heritability in one of the features examined (chirp note rate), whereas inter-individual variance was the most important source of variance for the rest of the features. We did not find evidence for sex differences in any of the features, but we did find that body weight and fundamental frequency of chirp elements covaried. Kin recognition has been invoked as a possible explanation for heritability or kin signatures in mammalian vocalizations. Although the function of primate duets remains a topic of debate, the presence of moderate heritability in titi monkey chirp elements indicates duets may serve a kin recognition function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Evolutionary Biology
StateAccepted/In press - 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Plecturocebus cupreus
  • duetting
  • kinship
  • vocal learning
  • vocal variation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


Dive into the research topics of 'Moderate evidence for heritability in the duet contributions of a South American primate'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this