The world of espionage to the rescue! Or how can collar-mounted miniature spy microphones provide behavioural ecologists and acousticians an incredible glimpse at small wildlife sound production. (#811)
Who has never dreamt of spying on all the doings and sayings of its animal study without interfering with it, for 24h? Technological advances have shown to greatly benefit the scientific community, especially for the study of animal vocal communication, which can particularly gain new insights and knowledge from technological improvements in recording equipment. Our comprehension of the acoustic signals emitted by animals would be greatly improved if we could continuously track the daily natural emissions of individuals in the wild, especially in the context of integrating individual variation into evolutionary ecology research questions. We present how this can be accomplished using an operational tiny audio recorder that can easily be fitted as an on-board acoustic data-logger on small free-ranging animals. The high-quality 24h acoustic recording logged on the spy microphone device allowed us to very efficiently collect daylong vocalisations in eastern chipmunks (Tamias striatus), giving us much more detailed data than the classical use of a directional microphone over an entire field season. The recordings also allowed us to monitor individual activity patterns and record incredibly long resting heart rates, and to identify self-scratching events and even whining from pre-emerging pups in their maternal burrow.