Pr. Nicolas MATHEVON

Professor - Univ. J. Monnet

Université Jean Monnet
UMR 8195
rue Michelon, 42023 St Etienne

Research Interest

   My research focuses on acoustic communication in Vertebrates within a comparative and evolutive framework. My goal is to understand the links between social complexity and communication behavior in an evolutionary perspective. My research goes along three axes: a phylogenetical axis with a comparative approach of communication systems throughout Vertebrates (fish, crocodiles, birds and mammals); a multidisciplinary axis by investigating processes at the brain level together with the behavioural level both in the lab and in the field; a social complexity axis by focusing on one end on “simple” communication and social systems found e.g. in some fish species and crocodiles, and on the other end on complex or highly complex ones (birds, marine mammals and more recently apes and Humans). My priority is to investigate the subject both in the field and in the lab.

Current Projects & Grants

Acoustic communication in complex social contexts

The goal of this line of research is to understand how social organization represents an evolutionary force that shapes information coding by signalers and information integration by receivers. I am currently working on social bonding in birds, male-male interactions in the northern elephant seal, communication networks in hyena and bonobos, as well as Human parents-baby interactions. For each of these models, I explore the links between the nature of social bonds and communication processes. My ultimate objective is to assess in what extent Human communication behavior is specific compared to other highly social mammals.

Evolution of information coding in Vertebrates acoustic signals

I want to compare information coding in sound signals between Vertebrates. Beside my investigations on birds and mammals, I am currently working on fish and crocodiles. The ultimate goal is to test the respective weight of phylogenetical vs social and environmental constraints in signal shaping.

Communication in extreme acoustic environments

To fully understand a communication system, one has to take into account the constraints leading on sound propagation (e.g. long range communication through obstacles like vegetation, noisy environments). I am thus interested in identifying specific adaptations allowing sound communications to remain effective despite of external constraints. I am doing some research with models like colonial seabirds or tropical forest songbirds.


Pr. Frederic Theunissen (University of California, Berkeley, USA)

Dr. Colleen Reichmuth (University of California, Santa Cruz)

Pr. David Reby (University of Sussex, GB)

Dr. Catherine Del Negro (University Paris XI, France)

Within the BioAcoustics Team: J.Attia, T.Aubin, M.Beauchaud, A.Blanc, I.Charrier, F.Levrero, C.Vignal.


Behavioural Biology

Some Selected Publications

Vergne A., Mathevon N. In press. Crocodile egg sounds signal hatching time. Current Biology.

Curé C., Aubin T., Mathevon N. In press. Acoustic convergence and divergence in two sympatric burrowing nocturnal seabirds. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society.

Mathevon N., Aubin T., Vielliard J., Da Silva ML., Sebe F., Boscolo D. 2008. Singing in the rain forest: How a tropical bird song transfers information. PloS ONE, 3(2):e1580.

Vignal C., Mathevon N., Mottin S. 2004. Audience drives male songbird response to partner’s voice. Nature, 430:448-451.

Charrier I., Mathevon N., Jouventin P. 2001. Mother’s voice recognition by seal pups. Nature, 412: 873.


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