Maigrot, A., Hillmann, E., Briefer, E. 2018. Encoding of emotional valence in wild boar (Sus scrofa) calls. Animals 8(6), 85.
Measuring emotions in nonhuman mammals is challenging. As animals are not able to verbally report how they feel, we need to find reliable indicators to assess their emotional state. Emotions can be described using two key dimensions: valence (negative or positive) and arousal (bodily activation or excitation). In this study, we investigated vocal expression of emotional valence in wild boars (Sus scrofa). The animals were observed in three naturally occurring situations: anticipation of a food reward (positive), affiliative interactions (positive), and agonistic interactions (negative). Body movement was used as an indicator of emotional arousal to control for the effect of this dimension. We found that screams and squeals were mostly produced during negative situations, and grunts during positive situations. Additionally, the energy quartiles, duration, formants, and harmonicity indicated valence across call types and situations. The mean of the first and second formants also indicated valence, but varied according to the call type. Our results suggest that wild boars can vocally express their emotional states. Some of these indicators could allow us to identify the emotional valence that wild boars are experiencing during vocal production and thus inform us about their welfare.