Prior to examining the neural correlates of auditory cognition with ethologically relevant stimuli, it is first necessary to establish that laboratory-housed animals respond to these stimuli with species-typical responses. Here, we report the results of experiments on laboratory-housed rhesus monkeys using both species-typical vocalizations and band-pass noise. Paralleling the approach used in field studies of this species, we used a habituation-discrimination paradigm in which auditory stimuli were presented and a monkey’s orienting responses to the stimuli were quantified. In parallel with the results obtained in field studies, we found that laboratory-housed rhesus classified species-typical vocalizations according to their putative referent properties as opposed to similarities in their acoustic morphology. In control experiments, monkeys oriented to band-pass noise but did not categorize differences in the spectral composition of the noise stimuli. These findings support the hypothesis that laboratory-housed rhesus classify, in the absence of training, species-typical vocalizations in a manner comparable to rhesus monkeys living under more natural conditions. As such, species-typical vocalizations are an appropriate and necessary class of stimuli in experiments that explore the neural correlates of auditory cognition in rhesus monkeys from a neuroethological perspective.

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