Master's Theses



Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Prairie dogs (Cynomys spp.) use alarm calls to warn offspring and other kin of predatory threats. Dialects occur when vocalizations contain consistent differences among populations not isolated by geographic barriers. The Gunnison’s prairie dog (C. gunnisoni) has dialects in its alarm calls. The objectives of my study were to: (1) assess if the black-tailed prairie dog (C. ludovicianus) responded differently to alarm calls from other colonies than it did to alarm calls from its own colony, and (2) detect dialects, if they existed, in the alarm calls of the black-tailed prairie dog. The study included 8 black-tailed prairie dog colonies in western and central Kansas. I obtained alarm calls by using a human (Homo sapiens) predator model. Playback experiments were conducted at each study colony by using alarm calls recorded at all 8 colonies. I also compared alarm calls within and among different colonies. The geographic origin of an alarm call did not appear to have an effect on how the black-tailed prairie dog responded to the call. The black-tailed prairie dog might respond to an alarm call regardless of the colony of its origin because: (1) the alarm call encodes information about the predator and (2) my sites might have all been part of a larger historic colony. My data suggested the black-tailed prairie dog did not appear to have dialects in its alarm call. Dialects in the alarm call might not exist because they might not have any adaptive value.


Dr. Elmer J. Finck

Date of Award

Fall 2011

Document Type



© 2011 Lloyd Towers


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