Modes of communication
Animals choose among a wide variety of media for communication. These inlcude the big four--vision, olfaction, hearing, contact--plus a plethora other possiblities, such as magnetic fields and electrical discharges. Choice of signal medium is driven by differences in how directional a signal might be, how far it might travel, and how fast it might travel. Distance and speed are not always maximized, as some signals are best restricted to close-by individuals, and may actually attract predators or parasites if they travel too far.
Evolution of communication
You might assume, because communication often involves individuals who share a common goal, such as mating, feeding, or caring for their young, that communication evolves as simple sharing of information. This sharing then would enhance their aility to reach the goal. In fact, however, conflicts of interest and assymetries underly many, perhaps most, interactions among animals. Deceit may be more common than honest signalling; interacting animals act in their own best interest and convey the information, honest or not, needed to enhance their fitness.
Follow this link for a consideration of deceit versus honest signalling.
From the sender's point of view, communication evolves
From the receiver's point of view, communication evolves
Game theory and communication
Game theory provides a very useful framework for analyzing communication. Remember that an animal communicates, it has a goal, which may be in conflict with the goals of other animals. This means that strategy and tactics play very important roles in animal communication.
To apply game theory, an animal behaviorist goes through the following steps
The hawk versus dove game, which models
whether animals should fight or not in territorial disputes, is
an excellent example of the application of game theory in the analysis
copyright ©2001 Michael D. Breed, all rights reserved