Reciprocal signaling in honeyguide-human mutualism.
Greater honeyguides (Indicator indicator) lead human honey-hunters to wild bees' nests, in a rare example of a mutualistic foraging partnership between humans and free-living wild animals. We show experimentally that a specialized vocal sound made by Mozambican honey-hunters seeking bees' nests elicits elevated cooperative behavior from honeyguides. The production of this sound increased the probability of being guided by a honeyguide from about 33 to 66% and the overall probability of thus finding a bees' nest from 17 to 54%, as compared with other animal or human sounds of similar amplitude. These results provide experimental evidence that a wild animal in a natural setting responds adaptively to a human signal of cooperation.