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Vocal tract modelling in fallow deer: are male groans nasalized? [RESEARCH ARTICLE]

D. Reby, M. T. Wyman, R. Frey, B. D. Charlton, J. P. Dalmont, and J. Gilbert

Males of several species of deer have a descended and mobile larynx, resulting in an unusually long vocal tract, which can be further extended by lowering the larynx during call production. Formant frequencies are lowered as the vocal tract is extended, as predicted when approximating the vocal tract as a uniform quarter wavelength resonator. However, formant frequencies in polygynous deer follow uneven distribution patterns, indicating that the vocal tract configuration may in fact be rather complex. We CT-scanned the head and neck region of two adult male fallow deer specimens with artificially extended vocal tracts and measured the cross-sectional areas of the supra-laryngeal vocal tract along the oral and nasal tracts. The CT data was then used to predict the resonances produced by three possible configurations, including the oral vocal tract only, the nasal vocal tract only, or combining both. We found that the area functions from the combined oral and nasal vocal tracts produced resonances more closely matching the formant pattern and scaling observed in fallow deer groans than those predicted by the area functions of the oral vocal tract only or of the nasal vocal tract only. This indicates that the nasal and oral vocal tracts are both simultaneously involved in the production of a nonhuman mammal vocalisation, and suggests that the potential for nasalization in putative oral loud-calls should be carefully considered.

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