Acoustic structures of sound in Gunnison’s prairie dog alarm calls are described, showing how these acoustic structures may encode information about three different predator species (red-tailed hawk—Buteo jamaicensis; domestic dog—Canis familaris; and coyote—Canis latrans). By dividing each alarm call into 25 equal-sized partitions and using resonant frequencies within each partition, commonly occurring acoustic structures were identified as components of alarm calls for the three predators. Although most of the acoustic structures appeared in alarm calls elicited by all three predator species, the frequency of occurrence of these acoustic structures varied among the alarm calls for the different predators, suggesting that these structures encode identifying information for each of the predators. A classification analysis of alarm calls elicited by each of the three predators showed that acoustic structures could correctly classify 67% of the calls elicited by domestic dogs, 73% of the calls elicited by coyotes, and 99% of the calls elicited by red-tailed hawks. The different distributions of acoustic structures associated with alarm calls for the three predator species suggest a duality of function, one of the design elements of language listed by Hockett [in Animal Sounds and Communication, edited by W. E. Lanyon and W. N. Tavolga (American Institute of Biological Sciences, Washington, DC, 1960), pp. 392–430].
Slobodchikoff, C. N., & Placer, J. (2006). Acoustic structures in the alarm calls of Gunnison’s prairie dogs. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 119(5), 3153-3160.