Dingo vocalisations: howl, where, why and who? (#545)
Dingoes (Canis lupus dingo) have a controversial place in the Australian landscape. They are apex predators that many people believe are vital for conservation while to others they are invasive pests to be controlled. Despite this controversy, little is known about their behaviour in the wild. As with many canid species, dingoes have complex vocal repertoires that, if better understood, might be used for conservation and management. However, we remain largely ignorant of the role of vocal communication in dingo social systems. Initially, to understand the vocal repertoire of wild dingoes we quantitatively described the recorded vocalisations of 45 trapped animals using acoustic parameters including spectral (such as frequency and amplitude shifts) and temporal (such as call length) components. Based on this analysis, vocalisations were categorised into seven distinct call types. Dingoes used these call types singly or in combination, with gradation present between some calls. Additional analysis of vocalisations of a random sub-sample of dingoes from four ecologically distinct habitats (five dingoes per habitat) demonstrated there were habitat-specific differences (p < 05) in their acoustic structure, consistent with predictions of the acoustic adaptation hypothesis. Currently, we are investigating the variation in vocalisations of dingoes recorded in a single habitat. Data collection is on-going but recordings analysed to date indicate there are acoustic differences in vocalisations associated with factors such as size, status, sex and degree of hybridisation. In addition, we are finding differences in the acoustic structure of calls in different contexts, e.g. presence/ absence of humans. Understanding the differences in vocalisations of dingoes in varying environments and situational contexts is vital to the success of remote monitoring and can help improve wildlife management and increase our knowledge of the ecology of the dingo.