Available Honours project


Acoustic communication in alpacas

Background. Living in social groups has several benefits for each individual that is part of the group. Examples of benefits include increased protection from predators due to shared vigilance, and access to social information about foraging locations. Individuals can best exploit those benefits when they coordinate their behaviour. Acoustic communication is one way to achieve this, e.g. through alarm calls that warn other individuals about the presence of predators, or through movement calls to recruit others when leaving a foraging patch as a group.

Aims. This Honours project will investigate the vocal communication in alpacas in three different contexts. It aims to describe three vocalisation types that all have implications for the social behaviour of the group living alpaca.

The student will identify and describe (i) alarm calls in response to predator presence, (ii) movement calls before group departures, and (iii) vocalisations during aggressive behaviour. The student will investigate those communication calls in the context of the group’s social behaviour.

Methods. The project will be based at Roseworthy campus. We will equip the alpacas with voice recording devices attached to their halters. These recordings will form the basis of the study. Further, we will also video record individual behaviours, as well as group behaviour which will provide the information on the behavioural context.

If you are interested in the topic please contact me to discuss the project. stephan.leu[at]adelaide.edu.au


You have your own research ideas?

If you are enthusiastic about research in Animal Behaviour, within my general research interests, feel free to contact me to discuss your own ideas.

I study animal behaviour in an ecological and evolutionary framework, and I am particularly interested in:

  • what drives the emergence of spatial and social structure in populations; 
  • how animals interact with their physical and social environment; and
  • what the consequences are for health and fitness.

For more info on what I do check out this, this, or even this page.