Introduction: communication, cooperation, and cognition in predators (#566)
Social carnivores offer an outstanding system in which to study the cognitive abilities underlying communication and cooperation and ultimately to developing a comparative understanding of the evolution of cognitive abilities. As our symposium will highlight, there are a diversity of questions about cognitive abilities one can ask that broadly address this question. Social animals may have to coordinate movement through space, coordinate hunting, communicate and manage dominance relationships. Some of this is through active, direct signaling, while other coordination may emerge from indirect actions. Social cohesion may be valuable for group functioning and communication may help maintain social cohesion. Receivers may obtain meaningful information from assessing the emotional state of the signaler, and information about emotional state may be embedded in the structure of many vocalizations. By studying diverse systems and problems, we can begin to frame important functional and evolutionary questions that will enable us to develop a more integrative and Tinbergian understanding of the evolution of cognitive abilities and mechanisms. By understanding how to identify cooperative groups through an understanding of their social communication, conservation biologists may be able to enhance the success of reintroductions that are becoming essential to preserve these often iconic and ecologically important terrestrial predators. This introduction will frame the symposium and prime participants and the audience for the discussion at the end.