Exploring the adaptive significance of five types of puma (puma concolor) vocalizations

Maximilian L. Allen, Yiwei Wang, Christopher C. Wilmers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Communication is a central component of animal behaviour, yet communicative behaviours are poorly studied due to their complexity and varied functions. Pumas (Puma concolor) are wide-ranging, solitary felids that primarily use indirect cues (e.g., scent marking) for communication. Because these cryptic carnivores are rarely observed directly, little is known about their vocalizations in the wild. We recorded a variety of Puma vocalizations among females and family groups using motion-triggered video cameras and then attempted to understand the function of each vocalization. We found two categories of vocalizations: 1) attention-attracting (caterwauling and mewing), and 2) calls (contact, agitated, and alarm). Vocalizations to attract attention ranged across broad frequencies. Contact, agitated, and alarm calls are narrow-frequency vocalizations that varied in intensity and were used to communicate with nearby conspecifics. Vocal communication entails risk, and while some Puma vocalizations may provide benefits that outweigh their risk, others are structured to limit detection and risk. These observations highlight the importance of the structure of vocalizations used during different behaviours to understand their adaptive significance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)289-294
Number of pages6
JournalCanadian Field-Naturalist
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Alarm call
  • Communication
  • Family groups
  • Puma concolor
  • Remote camera
  • Vocalizations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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