Acoustic signalling in a small, socially monogamous canid

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Animals that actively defend all or part of their home range for the exclusive use of members of their social group are considered territorial. Defended areas may contain resources such as dens or nests, key foraging sites, or sexual partners that vary in value by season. We investigated territoriality and the function of long-ranging barking sequences in a wild population of swift foxes, Vulpes velox. We monitored space use and barking behaviour and combined this with experimental acoustic playback during the mating season. Mated male foxes used barking sequences mainly inside or close to the boundary of the pair's home range core (50% kernel contour isoline of estimated home range). Similarly, male resident foxes responded more intensely with barking if a playback simulating intrusion by a rival occurred inside of the core compared to outside of it. However, it was common for home range cores to be partly overlapped by neighbouring home ranges and therefore we cannot arbitrarily define 50% home range cores as territories. Still, pair home ranges had areas that were exclusive to the mated pair and their primary and secondary daytime sleeping dens were usually located inside these areas. These results suggest that the barking sequence is used in territorial defence and we conclude that at least male swift foxes are territorial in the mating season and they use a long-ranging acoustic signal in territory defence.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)905-912
Publication statusPublished - 2008

Bibliographical note

Keywords: acoustic playback; Canidae; communication; swift fox; territoriality; vocalizations; Vulpes velox

ID: 8699335