ANIMAL BEHAVIOR

Just called to say “I love you”

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Science  20 Nov 2015:
Vol. 350, Issue 6263, pp. 924
DOI: 10.1126/science.350.6263.924-a

Ring-tailed lemurs call to their closest companions to reinforce their bond

PHOTO: © GERRY ELLIS/MINDEN PICTURES/CORBIS

Grooming among social species is thought to build and maintain social bonds. Vocal communication can similarly bond groups and has been thought to increase the number of individuals that can bond, because it is easier to call than to cleanse. Kulahci et al. looked at patterns of grooming and contact calling in ring-tailed lemurs and found just the opposite, however. Specifically, the animals that responded to each other's specific contact calls were those with the tightest bond, as measured by the amount of time spent grooming. Thus, their calls and responses seem to act as “grooming at a distance,” by reinforcing the tighter bonds between just a few animals, rather than expanding the number of animals that are able to bond.

Anim. Behav. 10.1016/j.anbehav.2015.09.016 (2015).

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