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Characterising the harmonic vocal repertoire of the Indian wolf (Canis lupus pallipes). Sadhukhan S, Hennelly L, Habib B. PloS one. 2019 Oct
Vocal communication in social animals plays a crucial role in mate choice, maintaining social structure, and foraging strategy. The Indian grey wolf, among the least studied subspecies, is a social carnivore that lives in groups called packs and has many types of vocal communication. In this study, we characterise harmonic vocalisation types of the Indian wolf using howl survey responses and opportunistic recordings from captive and nine packs (each pack contains 2-9 individuals) of free-ranging Indian wolves. Using principal component analysis, hierarchical clustering, and discriminant function analysis, we found four distinct vocalisations using 270 recorded vocalisations (Average Silhouette width Si = 0.598) which include howls and howl-barks (N = 238), whimper (N = 2), social squeak (N = 28), and whine (N = 2). Although having a smaller body size compared to other wolf subspecies, Indian wolf howls have an average mean fundamental frequency of 422 Hz (±126), which is similar to other wolf subspecies. The whimper showed the highest frequency modulation (37.296±4.601) and the highest mean fundamental frequency (1708±524 Hz) compared to other call types. Less information is available on the third vocalisation type, i.e. ‘Social squeak’ or ‘talking’ (Mean fundamental frequency = 461±83 Hz), which is highly variable (coefficient of frequency variation = 18.778±3.587). Lastly, we identified the whine, which had a mean fundamental frequency of 906Hz (±242) and is similar to the Italian wolf (979±109 Hz). Our study’s characterisation of the Indian wolf’s harmonic vocal repertoire provides a first step in understanding the function and contextual use of vocalisations in this social mammal.