Biology / 8 min read / 30 September 2021
Well you must’ve wondered many times whether animals talk, and if they do how exactly do they do it? The correct answer to this is not yes and no, yes that they do communicate ,but not as we humans do. The communication is divided into 4 major categories which we shall see in this article and some awesome examples of the same so do read till the end.
The four common modes of animal communication are visual, chemical, tactile, and auditory. Visual and Chemical must be clear by their titles themselves, but tactile means by touch and auditory means by voice. There are many examples which involve one or more of these at the same time.
The courtship in Fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster) is a great example of the same which involves successive stimuli which act as inputs for the next process. First of all, a male finds a female fly in his field of vision (visual communication) and aligns his body towards the female fly. Subsequently, he uses his smell to detect the chemicals (chemical communication) and then approaches the female and touches her with a foreleg (tactile communication). This alerts the female about his presence and finally the male vibrates one of his wings that produces the courtship song (auditory communication) which finishes the courtship process and they mate. It’s a great example which shows that all these various forms of communication can be seen and are important in communication and in absence of any of the parts the mating is impossible.
Usually the forms of commutation which evolve in any species depends closely on its lifestyle and surroundings. For instance, most of the terrestrial mammals are nocturnal which makes visual form of communication ineffective hence they rely upon their auditory and olfactory signals to communicate, while most birds are diurnal(active during the day) hence depend mainly upon visual and auditory signals. Humans too ,being diurnal ,use visual and auditory signals. Hence, we can usually notice the calls and visual signals used by animals but miss out the olfactory signals involving chemicals which most terrestrial mammals use.
Another example which can be seen is of porcupines (Erethizon dorsatum). They are large rodents, usually known for their sharp quills on their backs. Interestingly, they mainly communicate using their sound, olfactory signals and their quills ,as they are not very farsighted. For example, when their quills are lying flat, it means they are relaxed and do not feel threatened by their surroundings. If they are tense, they raise their quills, and wag their densely quilled tails. Moreover, they rely upon scents to communicate, usually in mating, and while they are being hunted emitting a foul potent odour to warn their predators. They also use vocal signals like tooth chatter,grunts,and shrieks to communicate. These responses again can mean many things from readiness for mating to communicating their location to their friends. Finally, they also use tactile form, varying from a light touch to a more physically aggressive contact. Their courtship ritual also includes rubbing of their noses or front paws.
These again represent the various forms of communications used by animals quite aptly. So be on a lookout the next time you meet an animal, maybe it’s trying to befriend you ;)