samedi 14 avril 2012

PhD position (sept.2012-sept.2015)

Does the social fabric of bonobo groups shape their vocal communication pattern?

Hiring Organisation: University of Saint-Etienne, France; Equipe de Neuro-Ethologie Sensorielle ENES/CNPS, CNRS UMR8195.

Dr. Florence Levréro (PI,, Université of Saint-Etienne
Pr. Nicolas Mathevon, Université of Saint-Etienne
Pr. Klaus Zuberbühler, University of St Andrews

Position Description:
The laboratory ‘Neuro-Ethologie Sensorielle’ (ENES-CNPS, CNRS UMR 8195) at University of Saint-Etienne (F. Levréro and N. Mathevon ( offers a three year PhD position, cosupervised by the School of Psychology at University of St Andrews, Scotland (K. Zuberbühler; to study the importance of vocal communication in social relationships of captive bonobos. Bonobos develop long-term tight bonds with specific partners, especially between mothers and sons and between unrelated females, while living in fission-fusion groups. As a consequence, individuals interact frequently and intensely with various group members, which requires advanced communicative skills. We are particularly interested in the question of whether the social life of this great ape has led to the ability of vocal mimicry, as this might facilitate the social integration of new members via conformism, a tendency to behave similarly to others. Call matching in particular may facilitate the social integration of new immigrants. We will address this question in captivity where groups are formed artificially, often irrespective of kin relations, so that preferred social relationships can be observed independently of genetic ties. An alternative hypothesis states that call matching does not occur in bonobos because the vocal channel is not essential for establishing new social relationships, because vocal signatures are weak at different social levels, or because bonobos have insufficient control to modulate calls. By performing vocal recordings, analyses and playback experiments, we shall be able to determine how the social fabric of bonobo groups shapes their vocal communication behaviour. 

The study will take place in different European zoos. The vocal behaviour of family members and unrelated group members will be investigated. The project is based on the collection of vocal recordings, detailed behavioural data and playback experiments. Acoustic and statistical analyses will be performed at Saint Etienne under the supervision of FL and NM. Short stays at St-Andrews will facilitate interactions with KZ. Depending on progress, additional fieldwork in the Democratic Republic of Congo with wild bonobos will be considered.

Required qualifications/experience:
Essential requirements are a strong theoretical background in behavioural biology and advanced knowledge in the collection of behavioural data. Knowledge in acoustics will be a serious advantage and experience in studying primate behaviour is welcome. A M.Sc. or equivalent degree in Behavioural or Evolutionary Biology, Anthropology or a related field must be completed by July 2012. Advanced language skills in English and (ideally) French are required. The successful candidate needs to be well adaptable and ready for mobility.

We offer a limited contract for three years within the standard French PhD salary pay scale with health and social security benefits. Funds from ENES Lab are available for all material, lab costs, and work-related travel. For applicants that are fluent in French, the University of Saint-Etienne offers teaching opportunities with an additional stipend. 

Application Deadline:
The deadline for application is May 5th, 2012 and the successful candidate should be able to begin the project in September 2012. Candidates should send a letter of interest, a CV, and two letters of recommendation via email to Dr. Florence Levréro.

Contact Information: Dr. Florence Levréro,
Website of ENES lab:
Selected references from ENES lab:
1- Charrier I, Mathevon N, Jouventin P., 2001. Mother’s voice recognition by seal pups. Nature, 412: 873.
2- Vignal C, Mathevon N, Mottin S, 2004. Audience drives male songbird response to partner’s voice. Nature, 430:448-451.
3- Caillaud D., Levréro F., Cristescu R., Gatti S., Dewas M., Douadi M., Gautier-Hion A., Raymond M. &
Ménard N. 2006. Gorilla susceptibility to Ebola virus: The cost of sociality. Current Biology 16(13):489-491
4- Levréro F., Gatti S., Gautier-Hion A. & Ménard N. 2007. Yaws disease in a wild gorilla population and its impact on the reproductive status of males. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 132(4):568-575
5- Vergne A, Mathevon N, 2008. Crocodile egg sounds signal hatching time. Current Biology, 18:R513-R514.
6- Caillaud D., Levréro F., Gatti S., Ménard N. & Raymond M. 2008. Influence of male morphology on
male mating status and behaviour during inter-unit encounters in western lowland gorillas. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 135 (4): 379-388 
Selected references from the St Andrews lab:
1- Clay, Z., & Zuberbühler, K. (2011). Bonobos extract meaning from call sequences. Plos One, 6(4). doi:e18786
2- Clay, Z., & Zuberbühler, K. (2012). Communication during sex among female bonobos: effects of dominance, solicitation and audience. Scientific Reports, 2, 291. doi: 10.1038/srep00291
3- Clay, Z., Pika, S., Gruber, T., & Zuberbühler, K. (2011). Female bonobos use copulation calls as social signals. Biology Letters, 7, 513-516.