The trunk-like nose of the saiga antelope Saiga tatarica is a striking example of an exaggerated trait, assumed to having evolved as a dust filter for inhaled air. In addition, it functions to elongate the vocal tract in harem saiga males for producing low-formant calls that serve as a cue to body size for conspecifics. This study applies the source–filter theory to the acoustics of nasal, oral and nasal-and-oral calls that were recorded from a captive herd of 24 mother and 32 neonate saigas within the first 10 days postpartum. Anatomical measurements of the nasal and oral vocal tracts of two specimens (one per age class) helped to establish the settings for the analysis of formants. In both mother and young, the lower formants of nasal calls/call parts were in agreement with the source–filter theory, which suggests lower formants for the longer nasal vocal tract than for the shorter oral vocal tract. Similar fundamental frequencies of the nasal and oral parts of nasal-and-oral calls were also in agreement with the source–filter theory, which postulates the independence of source and filter. However, the fundamental frequency was higher in oral than in nasal calls, probably due to the higher emotional arousal during the production of oral calls. We discuss production mechanisms and the ontogeny of formant patterns of oral and nasal calls among bovid and cervid species with and without a trunk-like nose.
source–filter theory, nasal and oral calls, acoustic analysis, vocal anatomy, mammals, mother–offspring communication