Social, contextual, and individual factors affecting the occurrence and acoustic structure of drumming bouts in wild chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes).
The production of structured and repetitive sounds by striking objects is a behavior found not only in humans, but also in a variety of animal species, including chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). In this study we examined individual and social factors that may influence the frequency with which individuals engage in drumming behavior when producing long distance pant hoot vocalizations, and analyzed the temporal structure of those drumming bouts. Male chimpanzees from Budongo Forest, Uganda, drummed significantly more frequently during travel than feeding or resting and older individuals were significantly more likely to produce drumming bouts than younger ones. In contrast, we found no evidence that the presence of estrus females, high ranking males and preferred social partners in the caller's vicinty had an effect on the frequency with which an individual accompanied their pant hoot vocalization with drumming. Through acoustic analyses, we demonstrated that drumming sequences produced with pant hoots may have contained information on individual identity and that qualitatively, there was individual variation in the complexity of the temporal patterns produced. We conclude that drumming patterns may act as individually distinctive long-distance signals that, together with pant hoot vocalizations, function to coordinate the movement and spacing of dispersed individuals within a community, rather than as signals to group members in the immediate audience.