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26.3: Communication
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26.3: Communication

Communication between two animals occurs when one animal transmits an information signal that causes a change in the animal that receives the information. Organisms communicate with one another in a host of different ways. Signals can be auditory, chemical, visual, tactile, or a combination of these. Communication is a critical behavioral adaptation that promotes survival, growth, and reproduction.

Types of Communication

A common form of communication is visual. Visual communication can be used to attract a mate, like the elaborate dances of the bird-of-paradise, or issue a warning, like the bared teeth of a wolf or the bright aposematic coloration of a banded sea krait (a venomous snake). The waggle-dance of the bee is another crucial visual communication that informs other members of the hive about the location of resources.

Animals also frequently use chemical signals to send messages. For example, canids, like the coyote, will often scent-mark to establish dominance or attract a mate.

Auditory communication is also common, including vocalizations like howls, songs, or chirps. Crickets, for example, use species-specific acoustic signals (typically a series of chirps) to communicate with conspecifics. Elephants use infrasounds, very low frequency sounds below the range of human hearing, to communicate.

The Madagascar hissing cockroach is one of many insect species that use tactile communication. In particular, they employ a technique called antennation—literally the touching of antennae to a prospective partner, in this case. Many other animals also use tactile gestures, including humans.


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