Concatenation of 'alert' and 'identity' segments in dingoes' alarm calls

Eloïse C. Deaúx*, Andrew P. Allen, Jennifer A. Clarke, Isabelle Charrier

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
90 Downloads (Pure)


Multicomponent signals can be formed by the uninterrupted concatenation of multiple call types. One such signal is found in dingoes, Canis familiaris dingo. This stereotyped, multicomponent 'barkhowl' vocalisation is formed by the concatenation of a noisy bark segment and a tonal howl segment. Both segments are structurally similar to bark and howl vocalisations produced independently in other contexts (e.g. intra-and inter-pack communication). Bark-howls are mainly uttered in response to human presence and were hypothesized to serve as alarm calls. We investigated the function of bark-howls and the respective roles of the bark and howl segments. We found that dingoes could discriminate between familiar and unfamiliar howl segments, after having only heard familiar howl vocalisations (i.e. different calls). We propose that howl segments could function as 'identity signals' and allow receivers to modulate their responses according to the caller's characteristics. The bark segment increased receivers' attention levels, providing support for earlier observational claims that barks have an 'alerting' function. Lastly, dingoes were more likely to display vigilance behaviours upon hearing bark-howl vocalisations, lending support to the alarm function hypothesis. Canid vocalisations, such as the dingo bark-howl, may provide a model system to investigate the selective pressures shaping complex communication systems.

Original languageEnglish
Article number30556
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jul 2016

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Copyright the Author(s) 2016. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


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