Barbados green monkeys (Chlorocebus sabaeus) recognize ancestral alarm calls after 350 years of isolation

Melissa Burns-Cusato, Brian Cusato, Amanda C. Glueck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Vervet monkeys (Chlorocebus pygerythrus) produce alarm calls and anti-predator behaviors that are specific to a threatening predator's mode of attack. Upon hearing a leopard alarm, the monkeys will run up trees where they are relatively safe. In contrast, eagle alarms prompt the monkeys to run under bushes and snake alarms stimulate bipedal standing. Early researchers proposed that the meaning of each alarm call is conveyed by observational learning. If this true then absence of the predator that elicits the alarm call may lead to alteration or decay of the alarm's meaning since there is no longer opportunity for observational learning to occur. The present study tested this hypothesis by presenting alarm calls to a closely related species of monkeys (Chlorocebus sabaeus) that have been isolated from their ancestral predators for more than 350 years. The monkeys ran up trees in response to a leopard alarm, but not when the same alarm was played backwards and not in response to a snake alarm. Snake alarms failed to reliably elicit bipedal standing. These results suggest that the leopard alarm call conveys the same information to Barbados green monkeys as West African green monkeys despite generations of isolation from leopards.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)197-199
Number of pages3
JournalBehavioural Processes
StatePublished - Nov 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to express our gratitude to Jean Baulu, Carlisle Sutton, and the staff at the Barbados Wildlife Reserve for facilitating this research. Thanks also to Tabitha Price for providing recordings of African green monkey alarm calls and for her helpful advice, and to two anonymous reviewers for their thoughtful comments on an earlier draft of this manuscript. This research was supported by Centre College.


  • Alarm call
  • Anti-predator behavior
  • Chlorocebus
  • Green monkeys
  • Predator isolation
  • Vervet

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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