Tecla Mohr


Development of alarm calling behaviour in juvenile vervet monkeys (Chlorocebus aethiops)

My master thesis is in collaboration with Prof Klaus Zuberbühler, Dr Erica van de Waal, and two PhD students, Stéphanie Mercier and Axelle Bono. It is a study of eight months (June 2016 - February 2017) on vervet monkeys at the Inkawu Vervet Project in South Africa.

The first studies on vervet monkeys have already documented the importance of alarm calling behavior in these animals. However, development of alarm calling behaviour in juvenile vervet monkeys remains unknown. Here, I will focus my project on the relationship of infants and juveniles with their mothers. For the first phase, I will analyse some of the existing database of vocalizations collected by Stephanie Mercier during her PhD research, notably the monkeys’ responses to leopard models. The aim of these analyses is to understand when and how the juveniles start to communicate with their mothers and how mothers can influence the development of their offspring

The second phase will be my own fieldwork, during which I will follow three wild groups of vervet monkeys. In addition to leopard models, I will also present models of one main aerial predator, the martial eagle, to study the responses in infants and juveniles. My general hypothesis is that, during this short time period, juvenile must learn the connections
between the different alarm calls and the associated predator types, mainly by observing their mothers.
My research goal is to understand how and when young vervet monkeys develop fully competent alarm calling behaviour, both as receivers and as call producers. To address this question I will compare infant and juvenile vocal behaviour in the presence of their mothers or while with other females.