Social Recognition of American Pika (Ochotona princeps)
Communication is an important aspect of the lives of social animals. Furthermore, the ability to recognize and distinguish others solely based on communication is vital to animals which regularly interact with one another, including those who find themselves in territorial disputes. Research has found that some calls produced by territorial animals, such as red squirrels (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus), contain variations in specific call elements which allow for individuals to identify individuals. Here, we test to see if the calls of another territorial mammal, the American Pika (Ochotona princeps), contain similar structural variations that allow for the discrimination of individuality. Calls and behavioural data from call playback experiments were collected from a pika population in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Calls were then analyzed using the acoustic analysis software Praat and several aspects of each call were extracted. Discriminant function analysis showed that some of these structural aspects allow pika to discern individuality. Analysis of the behavioural data found that some behaviours are produced more or less likely when the individual is played the call of a neighbour, stranger, or its own. These results not only confirm the earlier findings of a dear enemy effect in the species, but also provide the call aspects that allow for this phenomenon to take place.
Faculty Mentor: Shannon Digweed
Department: Biological Science (Honours)