Multicomponent and multimodal lipsmacking in crested macaques (Macaca nigra)

Jerome Micheletta, A. Engelhardt, L. Matthews, M. Agil, Bridget Waller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Primates’ communicative signals are often dynamic and composed of multiple components, sometimes belonging to different sensory modalities. Such multicomponent signals are of crucial importance in the study of communication: the addition of extra features to a signal has the potential to modulate or change the meaning and message of the specific signal. Traditionally, however, components of compound signals are studied in isolation from each other, or communicative displays are studied as static and invariant wholes. Both approaches may not allow us to assess the full function of the signals. In crested macaques (Macaca nigra), the lipsmack (a display mainly used in affiliative interactions) can be produced alone or combined with other visual and acoustic communicative features. We investigated whether the composition of the lipsmack influenced the outcome of social interaction while controlling for relationship quality. Our results show that lipsmacks composed of both visual and vocal components (i.e. multimodal signals) increased the probability of affiliative contact, and therefore have enhanced signal value. The total number of visual components involved in the display had no effect but some visual components seemed more influential than others. By analyzing lipsmacking behavior as a composite, dynamic display, we were able to reveal a level of complexity that is not apparent when looking at each component separately. The results highlight the importance of a more integrative, multimodal approach to the study of primate communication.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)763-773
Number of pages11
JournalAmerican Journal of Primatology
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2012


  • Multimodal communication
  • friendship
  • dominance
  • Macaca nigra
  • macaques
  • lipsmack
  • elo-rating
  • facial expressions
  • communication


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