Natural Communication

Natural Communication

Communication

Communication is an adaptation that helps animals survive. Communication can be auditory, visual, tactile or chemical (tastes and smells!) Animals use communication to attract mates, warn off predators, mark territory and to identify themselves. Visual Communication - There are two types of visual communication. Badges are the color and shape of the animal. They are structural adaptations. Displays are the second type of visual communication. They are the things animals do to communicate. Displays are behavioral adaptations.
Auditory Communication - Animals make lots of different sounds to communicate. From the roar of a lion to the song of the whale, sound is a way for animals to "talk" to other animals.
Tactile Communication - When a cat rubs up against you or a dog offers you its paw, they are communicating. Animals use touch in many different ways.
Chemical Communication - Have you ever smelled a skunk? Seen a cat rub the side of its mouth against something? These are both types of chemical communication.

Tactile Communication

Tactile communication, or touch, is an important form of communication for many animals. Mother tigers lick and nuzzle their babies, chimpanzees groom each other, and bear cubs wrestle with each other. Touch is used to comfort, to establish dominance and to establish bonds.

    Monkeying Around

Touch is very important in many primate species. Primates are social animals. They live in large groups. Touch helps the group form bonds and stay peaceful!  Primates often groom each other. Female primates often hold and frequently cuddle and comfort their young.

Visual Communication

Visual Communication can be a structural adaptation - a badge or it can be a behavioral adaptation - a display.

    Badges

Animals often communicate using structural adaptations like the bright yellow color of the male American goldfinch. A structural adaptation that is used to communicate is called a badge.

    Mine's Bigger

The male white-tailed deer has antlers. The size of the antlers is a badge that can tell another male deer how powerful the other deer is. The larger the antlers, the more powerful the deer!

    Looking for Mr. Right

Badges can also help females pick a mate. Many male bird's, like the northern cardinal, have brightly colored feathers. The brighter a male birds feathers, the healthier it is. Healthy animals make better mates than the weaker animals, because their offspring will be stronger and better able to survive.

    I'm Warning You!

Sometimes, the color or pattern of an animal is a badge that serves as a warning to other animals to stay away! The gila monster's bright orange colored splotches are a warning to predators that the gila monster is poisonous and they should back-off.


Displays

When an animal exhibits a behavior that can be seen by other animals, it is called a display. Displays can be used to attract a mate or to warn off a predator. When a sage grouse opens its tail feathers and struts around trying to attract the attention of a female, that is a display. When a cat arches its and raises its fur, that is also a display.

Who's the Man?

Wolves and dogs put their tails between their legs and lie on their backs to show submission to another wolf or dog and to let them know they are not a threat. When wolves (and dogs) want to show dominance they stare at each other, raise their fur and bare their teeth. This lets the other wolf or dog know that they want to be the top, or dominant, animal.

   Look at Me!

Many animals use visual displays to attract a mate. A female American crocodiles tries to get the attention of a male by lifting her head and showing her neck. She will also use tactile communication and rub up against the side of the male's head and neck. This lets the normally aggressive male know that she is not aggressive!

  And the Winner Is...

Male elephant seals go through a series of vocal and visual displays of aggression when they are competing for a mate. Eventually one male emerge as the winner.
 Auditory communication is the sound an animal makes. They sound may be one that comes from the animal, or it may be a sound an animal makes when it interacts with an object.

    

Pump Up the Volume

Male American alligators use a combination of sounds and displays to get the attention of females when they want to mate. An alligator roars, slaps his head against the water, taps the nose of the female, nudges her, and shoves up against her to get her attention.

Sound Reasons

Some animals have different vocalizations for different occasions. Coyotes are one of the noisiest animals in North America. They use a series of barks, yips and howls to mark territory and to let other coyotes know where they are. When a loon is defending its territory it will run across the water, flap its wings and use a vocalization called a tremolo.

Were You Invited?

Lots of animals will vocalize when an intruder comes too close to or invades their territory. You have probably heard a dog start barking when someone comes close to their house. Red squirrels will make a series of loud rattles, screeches and yips to warn off intruders.

Talk to the Animals

The bottlenose dolphin has a wide range of vocalizations. Some scientists think they have a language. Scientists are working to see if humans can communicate with dolphins. Each dolphin also has its own unique whistling sound that it uses to identify itself. Dolphins use sound or echolocation to locate food. They have sacs in their foreheads that they use to make clicking sounds. The sounds travel through the water and when they hit something, bounce back to the dolphin.

Chemical Communication

Many animals use chemical communication or pheromones to communicate. They may leave their scent to mark territory or attract mates. They often use smell to find prey and identify other animals.

 Home, Sweet, Pheromone

Animals often use chemical communication to mark territory. They leave pheromones, or chemical marks behind. Some animals leave scent posts to mark their territory. A scent post is something that is marked by an animal with its scent. Scent posts set the boundaries of an animal's territory. The mountain lion is a solitary animal and it likes to travel alone. A male's territory can be more that 100 square miles. The male mountain lion often kicks up piles of pine needles, dirt or leaves with its hind feet and urinates on the pile to mark its territory.

The Canada lynx also leaves a scent post. It will urinate on trees and tree trunks. It may also leave claw marks on trees. Claw marks are a visual sign, but can also be a chemical one. Many animals have scent glands in their claws!  When they scratch a tree, they leave a little of their scent behind.

    Something in the Air

Snakes use their forked tongues to "taste" or collect pheromones of prey animals that are in the air. They have receptors in the roof of their mouths that help them taste and smell the pheromones.

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