Frequency discrimination in the common marmoset (Callithrix jacchus)

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Abstract

The common marmoset (Callithrix jacchus) is a highly vocal New World primate species that has emerged in recent years as a promising model system for studies of auditory and vocal processing. Our recent studies have examined perceptual mechanisms related to the pitch of harmonic complex tones in this species. However, no previous psychoacoustic work has measured marmosets' frequency discrimination abilities for pure tones across a broad frequency range. Here we systematically examined frequency difference limens (FDLs), which measure the minimum discriminable frequency difference between two pure tones, in marmosets across most of their hearing range. Results show that marmosets' FDLs are comparable to other New World primates, with lowest values in the frequency range of ˜3.5–14 kHz. This region of lowest FDLs corresponds with the region of lowest hearing thresholds in this species measured in our previous study and also with the greatest concentration of spectral energy in the major types of marmoset vocalizations. These data suggest that frequency discrimination in the common marmoset may have evolved to match the hearing sensitivity and spectral characteristics of this species’ vocalizations.

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