Acoustic characteristics of white-nosed coati vocalizations: A test of motivation-structural rules

L. A. Compton, J. A. Clarke*, J. Seidensticker, D. R. Ingrisano

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Vocalizations of white-nosed coatis (Nasua narica) emitted in nonaggressive and aggressive contexts were measured and compared to determine if these calls exhibited acoustic characteristics in accordance with motivation-structural (MS) rules. "Chirp" and "squawk" calls were compared spectrographically using 11 coatis from 3 zoos. Chirps were short-duration (68.6-212.0 ms), high-maximum frequency (16.2-17.9 kHz), tonal calls with frequency modulations. Squawks were longer-duration (177.9-546.5 ms), low-maximum frequency (8.4-13.2 kHz), wide-bandwidth calls with 6 resonances and little frequency modulation. Squawks differed from chirps in duration, maximum frequency, and change in frequency (P < 0.001). Chirps were emitted during nonaggressive behaviors, whereas squawks were emitted during agonistic encounters. Squawks conformed to MS rule predictions for aggressive calls, and chirps supported MS rule predictions for nonaggressive contexts, but some exceptional characteristics were noted in chirps. Many chirps (67.7%) concluded with a short-duration, broad-bandwidth sound with high energy in low frequencies, and may represent variations of a graded call.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1054-1058
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Mammalogy
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2001


  • Motivation-structural rules
  • Nasua narica
  • Vocalizations
  • White-nosed coati


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