STUDYING ALARM CALL COMMUNICATION IN MEERKATS
Meerkats (Suricata suricatta), as many other animals, suffer from a high mortality rate due to predation. Any behaviour facilitating the avoidance of predators is therefore under strong selection. In addition to a coordinated sentinel system, meerkats have developed a sophisticated alarm call system where the acoustic structure of alarm calls provide listeners with information about both the type of predator approaching and the level of urgency. This allows receivers to respond appropriately to calls emitted in a specific context. Using a combination of behavioural observations and field experiments, our research team has investigated questions regarding alarm call communication in groups of free ranging meerkats in South Africa for the past 10 years. Our aim with this paper is to provide an overview of how we approached the study of alarm call communication. The methods we applied may also be used to investigate any other vocal communication.
Keywords: Suricata suricatta, alarm calls, vocal communication, predator avoidance, sound recording