Collective Behaviour - Summer Seminar Series 2022

Conversational dynamics in social mammals

Vlad Demartsev

This event is part of an event series „CASCB Seminar Series Summer Semester 2022“.

Vocal signalling plays an important role in mediation of animals' activities. Once considered as rigid and innate, we are now witnessing rapid accumulation of evidence, supporting the flexibility of vocal production in animals. Factors related to the structure of the signalling interaction, like volitional control over the timing of callings, selectivity of communication partners and the strategical choices related to presence, identity and attention state of receivers, reflect and mediate social relations in animal groups. All of these factors can serve as additional information channels along with acoustics and syntax of the produced vocalizations.

Precise temporal and spatial mapping of vocal signals in an animal group requires continuous and individual recordings of all group members. From collecting such data in free ranging meerkats (Suricata suricatta) we could identify call-type specific transmission modes. While some of the call types are produced as so called “broadcasts” towards unspecified receivers or follow some general event, others are “interactive”, i.e., coupled with calls of neighbors, they generate a "call-and-response" structure. By focusing on such reciprocal call exchanges within multiparticipant signaling events we can investigate interlocutor selectivity, for example individuals having preferred interaction partners with whom they exchange signals more readily or maintain continuous communicational link over multiple call exchange rounds.

Additionally, by remotely monitoring individual breathing patterns during and immediately before calling we are testing the extent to which meerkats are able to plan the duration of vocal emission and to adjust the timing of their calls according to the calls of neighbors. In general perspective, these phenomena might indicate a conversation-like structure of animal vocal exchanges. A sustained temporal coordination of signaling among individuals that track the timing and progression of their conspecifics` vocalization and dynamically adjust their calling turns.  

Vlad Demartsev did his BSc in Biology at Tel Aviv University and continued to a MSc in Plant Sciences in Volcani center (Agricultural Research Organization, Israel). After spending a period of writing and teaching courses in evolution biology and behaviour of domestic dogs at Sapir College, Israel, and Achva College, Israel, Vlad returned to academia and started a PhD at Tel Aviv University in the group of Prof Eli Geffen working on Rock hyrax vocal communication. After his PhD, he did a postdoc at University of Zurich in the group of Marta Manser, working on meerkat vocal interactions. Since October 2018, he has been a postdoc in Konstanz in Ariana Strandburg-Peshkin´s group on vocal interactions in meerkats and on intentionality and planning of vocal signaling.

Datum: 2022-04-11