It is not difficult to see how human beings communicate with one another, but how do animals communicate? Do animals even communicate at all? How can ants track trails of food that you can never even notice, or how do dogs or lions delineate their zones by just making use of urine? You must have heard of birds chirping loudly at dawn, but what does that even mean? This article is going to provide answers to these fascinating questions.
Communication in the Animal Kingdom
Communication between animals comes in different ways. It is often defined as a process in which information is transferred from one animal to another, leading to a change or transformation in the recipient animal.
Communication typically occurs between animals of the same species even though it has been noticed that the same communication can also occur among different species. A good example is when your excited dog barks at you to get a treat or when it barks at other dogs for attention. There are animal species that are very gregarious, congregate in groups, and engage in constant interaction. Communication helps animals in several ways and even animals that are not social still communicate even if it is for the sake of mating.
That said, what are the methods of interaction behaviors in animals? These creatures have sensory systems that can be very diverse. The olfactory sense of a dog is 40 times more sensitive than our own. Due to this diversity of the senses, various animals do their communication by using different kinds of stimuli, all of which are known as signals.
Types of Signals Animals Use in Communication
Signals that animals utilize in their patterns of communication include the following:
- Chemicals that are known as pheromones
- Visual stimuli (photoreceptor cues)
- Sound stimuli (auditory cues)
- Tactile cues (this is from touch)
In some other instances, it has even been noticed that the signals can come in electric currents. The sheer diversity in these behavioral patterns of communication stems from natural selection. The traits that are best at helping a species to survive and reproduce are going to be retained and persist over time in the population or the species. The following sections are going to focus on describing details on each pattern of behavior.
A pheromone is a chemical substance used to stimulate a response in another animal of similar species. Pheromones are extensively used for communication among gregarious insects like bees and ants. These chemical substances can be used to attract the opposite sex, warn others, track food, or even be used in some other cases.
Take tracking of food; for example, whenever ants can locate rich sources of food, they get to drop pheromones on the way to and fro the site, and this way, the trail of pheromones accumulate and more ants are attracted, and they can all get more food from the area.
Ants also use pheromones for other things apart from locating food. They also use these chemical substances to denote their status, position, or role in the colony. Ants organize their societies in layers, and each one has its own set of pheromones that it uses to signify its rank in the territory. The pheromones released by the worker ant are not the same as the queen ant. Ants also use pheromones as a signal for danger to alert the other ants, an ant in trouble will release the kind of pheromones that will send a cautious note to other ants to either avoid or even launch a mass attack against a predator.
The use of pheromones has also been documented in dogs. Our cute canine friends are known for sniffing each other to get cues from pheromones, which are also present in the urine. In releasing urine full of pheromones on a patch of bush, a dog can mark its territory so that other competing canines can stay away.
The use of sound as a means of communication is widely used in the animal kingdom. It is even more significant for birds, and they use these audio cues to attract mates, coordinate group behaviors, defend territories, and so on. Some birds are also known for producing very complex vocalizations that scientists are still trying to understand precisely what they are meant for.
However, it is not only birds that use sounds to communicate. Other animals like monkeys, gibbons, bullfrogs, and so many others also utilize sounds when looking for mates, warning about a nearby predator, or even to mark the territory.
This form of communication has to do with signals that are connected to the sense of vision. These can be colors, gestures, body language, or even facial expressions. Posture and motion are prevalent as forms of visual communication among animals. Chimpanzees pass the message of threat across by hitting on the ground or raising their arms or even looking directly at the other chimpanzees. The use of bright colors can also signal fertility and willingness to accept a mate by female animals.
Tactile Signals (Touch Stimuli)
This form of communication is not as extensive as visual patterns, but it is also relevant. It is seen more in insects like honeybees. When they enter a dark nest, they employ the sense of touch to detect the presence of food. Primates also make use of touch for grooming and other tasks. This is incredibly helpful among the primates in strengthening social bonds.
Importance of Communication in Animals
Communication in animals is used to serve a lot of purposes. It is used when searching for and locating mates or competing for suitors. It is also helpful in establishing dominance or delineation of territory alongside the organization of social hierarchy. Patterns of communication also help animals coordinate their group activities and take good care of the species’ young and vulnerable members.