Dialects in the alarm calls of prairie dogs

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  1. The alarm calls of the Gunnison's prairie dog, Cynomys gunnisoni zuniensis, have differentiated into local dialects.
  2. Call characteristics show that, within a given dialect, the number of syllables, the length of the syllables, and the interval length between syllables are weakly correlated with one another. The number of syllables, however, is strongly correlated with the total length of the call.
  3. Both the number of syllables and the total call length are strongly correlated with the complexity of the habitat: the more complex the habitat in terms of vegetation cover, rocks, and tree stumps, the more syllables there are and the longer is the call. This may be related to predation pressure, with prairie dogs in more complex habitats calling longer to warn their kin when a predator approaches.